Fascinating Redwood Ecosystems

Show Summary – January 26, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.
Guest: Jeff Denney

Jeff Denney (Crescent City, OR), Redwood National Park, CA,

Jeff Denney, interpretive ranger from Redwood National Park in northwest California, talked about the redwoods and the northwest coast ecosystem. He explained that redwoods thrive on moisture but that rain is largely confined to winter in the region, which receives 60 to 100 inches per year. In summer, frequent fog helps keep the trees moist and healthy.

Millions of years ago, according to Jeff, redwoods were a dominant species in the Northern Hemisphere. They are now confined almost solely to the northwest California coast, extending slightly into Oregon. They have three close relatives, the giant sequoia, which is confined exclusively to middle elevations on the western side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, the “dawn redwood” or metasequoia, found only in a few isolated valleys in central China’s Sichuan Province, and the southern baldcypress, found in swamps in southeast United States. Metasequoia and baldcypress are deciduous conifers that lost their leaves in fall.

Redwoods commonly reach over 300 feet in height and the tallest redwood, which is also the tallest tree in the world, tops out at 379 feet. Average height for a mature redwood is 335 to 350 feet. Douglas-fir and Australian eucalyptus can also reach 300 feet in height.

The oldest known redwood is about 2,100 years old. The average age of a mature redwood is 700 to 1,200 years. Twenty-feet in diameter at breast height (BDH) is common for these trees.

Jeff described the redwood forests as “cathedral-like,” majestic, quiet and awe provoking, with huge pillars reaching to the sky and no direct sunlight.

Common understory associates of redwoods include Western hemlock, tanoak, rhododendron, Douglas-fir, huckleberry, redwood sorrel and tiger lily. Animals include Roosevelt elk (North America’s largest land mammal), very healthy and large black bears, cougar, fox, coyote, beaver, etc.

Park visitor centers are located in Crescent City, Orick (on the beach) and Hiuchi. To discover more about redwoods, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoia. To discover more about Redwood National Park, go to http://www.nps.gov/redw.

Categories: US National Parks, Monuments; Ecology and Environment

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