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Can we save the fire lilies and sequoias from climate change?

Can we save the fire lilies and sequoias from climate change?

sequoias

sequoias
Credit: Unsplash/CC0Public Domain

It is both humbling and inspiring to stand in the sunlit groves of giant sequoias. We are reminded how small we are in comparison to the greatness of the Earth’s oldest living organisms.


Evergreen and ever-present, these colossal conifers have witnessed the passing seasons—and the awestruck expressions of human admirers—for what seems like eternity. They are so integral to the mountain landscape, it’s difficult to imagine life without them.

These majestic trees are protected from the chainsaws that have cut so many of its tropical hardwood counterparts.

It is shocking to learn that even giant trees are not immune from the ravages of climate change. Slowly and quietly, they are also being affected by the same insidious threat.

Am I the only person who thought they heard the voice of Sir David Attenborough, vice-president of Fauna & Flora International (FFI), crack as he described the plight of these majestic trees during that piece to camera on The Green Planet?

What is the size of a giant sequoia tree?

The largest living forms on the planet. It can reach a height of nearly 100 meters and have a width of over 10 meters. Often confused with giant redwoods—the world’s tallest tree, which can grow well over 100 meters—giant sequoias are notable as much for their girth as their height. General Sherman (main picture), the largest of them all, is 31 meters in circumference and weighs in at 1,200 tonnes. This is ten times more than a blue whale.

Reptile lovers will enjoy the parallels with serpent realm, where the world’s longest snake, the reticulated Python, and the largest snake in the world, the green anaconda are competing for supremacy.

How long do giant sequoias last?

Giant sequoias have the longest life expectancy of any tree. . They may not measure up to the 10,000-year-old colony of seagrass in the Spanish Mediterranean, or even match their close California neighbor, the ancient bristlecone pine—affectionately known as Methuselah—that is well on course to reach the ripe old age of 5,000. The oldest is still alive. Recorded evidence shows that they survived for more than 3,500 years.

Where are giant sequoias located?

Once widespread across the northern hemisphere of the continent, sequoias now live on the western slopes the Sierra Nevada mountain range in northern California. They can be found at elevations of 5,000 to 7,500 feet. The combination of dry mountain air and snow melt, as well as well-drained soil, provides them with the conditions necessary to thrive and reproduce.

Why are giant sequoias endangered

Giant sequoias consume an incredible 4,000 liters of water each day. The availability of melting snow has always made it easy to obtain this precious resource. The climate is warming up and the snowfalls that fall during the winter are becoming less frequent. This leaves the trees more susceptible to drought during the summer months.

Evidence is mounting that these huge trees are shedding their branches and needles to conserve water. However, even these drastic measures are not enough to ensure their survival. Surprisingly, California’s giant sequoias lost 10% in the last few decades.

These climate-driven crisis are not limited to the northern hemisphere. The flaming firelilies at the southern tip of Africa may soon be facing an equally challenging problem.

Where can you find fire lilies?

Only the fynbos area of South Africa is home to the fire lily. This botanical paradise contains literally thousands of species of plants, all competing for the attention of the birds, insects, and other pollinators. Many of these plants are adapted for fire, and many depend on it to complete their life cycle. But the fire lily has changed this relationship.

Smoke is a must for any fire lily

The fire lilies were hidden away, while the rest fynbos flora displayed their bright blooms. They will only make an appearance once fire has destroyed the landscape. The emergence of the fire lily is triggered by smoke, and their fiery-red flowers—blazing brightly against a background of blackened scenery—enjoy the undivided attention of sunbirds and other pollinators.

What is fynbos and how can it help you?

Fynbos is South Africa’s local name for the dominant vegetation type in the Cape Floral Kingdom. It also houses the fire lily as well as a variety of flowers, including freesias and lobelias. It is one the most biologically diverse landscapes on Earth and it is also the most threatened. It contains more native plants than any other tropical rainforest. The 8,500 plant species found here are staggeringly 5,800 that are not found anywhere else in the world.

What are the main threats to fynbos’ health?

Fynbos is being threatened by invasive tree species, urban expansion, agricultural land encroachment, and unsustainable exploitation. FFI played a key role in saving a critical area of fynbos and has supported local partners in protecting well over 50,000 hectares.

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Ironically, only one This is a threat to the fynbos’ long-term survival. Even species that have evolved in a fire-prone environment can still survive.

In recent years, extreme wildfires—the result of extended periods of drought that turn the landscape into a tinderbox—have become a disconcertingly regular occurrence across the fynbos landscape. Although scorched earth can stimulate seed growth, if the flames penetrate too deeply, incinerating the soil below, and causing more heat, the fire lily may not be able to recover.

Too darn hot

Wildfires with increasing frequency and intensity; droughts that last longer and are more severe; biblical floods in the middle of summer; melting ice caps at midwinter; seasons which no longer match their type. Climate change is changing the rules, and climate change is threatening the survival a wide range of plant species. lilies to bees can cause damage to ecosystems that we all depend on and, consequently, reduce their effectiveness as natural allies against global warming.

We will determine whether we stop climate change by taking the actions that we did between last year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and this year’s COP27 follow up in Egypt, which is scheduled for November. Sir David Attenborough’s wise words: “Only, if we can.” [tackle ]Will the future of season plants, including these magnificent trees be assured?


California lost thousands on giant sequoias. It’s sad, but it’s something we know.


Citation:
Can we save the fire lilies and sequoias from climate change? (2022, January 25, 2022)
Retrieved 25 January 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-01-sequoias-lilies-climate.html

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