14. LIFE BELOW WATER

Thinking Long-Term: Why We Should Bring Back Redwood Forests

Thinking Long-Term: Why We Should Bring Back Redwood Forests
Written by ZJbTFBGJ2T

Thinking Long-Term: Why We Should Bring Back Redwood Forests  Yale Environment 360

Thinking Long-Term: Why We Should Bring Back Redwood Forests

Restoring Redwood Forests for a Sustainable Future

The Significance of Redwood Forest Restoration

Only 5 percent of the redwood forests that once stretched across coastal Northern California have never been logged. An initiative to restore these forests is gaining momentum, aided by research showing that redwoods store more aboveground carbon than any forest on Earth.

The Establishment of Redwood National Park

Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that established the Redwood National Park in California 55 years ago. It was a long time coming, with proposals blocked in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s by an industry that was beavering through the most valuable timberlands on the planet. When the National Park Service recommended a park again in 1964, bipartisan support in the Senate, a nod from President Johnson and, I believe, the trees’ own power to inspire eventually got a deal through Congress.

Efforts in Forest Restoration

The national park was not the first redwood park. Several small California state parks had been created decades earlier. But it was the first from which most of the old growth had already been removed. Created in two phases, in 1968 and 1978, 75 percent of our national park had been razed. Overall, the public owns over 100,000 acres of injured, young forest on federal and state land. Land managers are trying to actively nurture some of them into new old growth. Tactics include one-time thinning of dense stands, prescribed fire, closing roads, dropping trees in streams to make salmon-friendly pools, ongoing selective logging to favor a few large trees, and just leaving the forests alone.

The Redwoods Rising Initiative

Restoration has drawn recent attention and picked up momentum with the launch of Redwoods Rising, an ambitious recovery program. Operations began in 2020 and have been gaining urgency, as the impacts of climate change have become a part of everyday life in the region, and a growing body of science has shown that old-growth redwoods store more aboveground carbon than any forest on Earth, up 2,600 tons per hectare. That’s three to five times as much as even the oldest secondary forests. “The only vegetation that grows faster is sorghum and sugarcane,” says University of Washington scientist Robert Van Pelt.

The Long-Term Growth of Redwood Forests

But a redwood forest still takes a long time to grow, and, in an era when short-term thinking threatens the very livability of our planet, it’s extraordinary that people are investing careers and great sums of money in these projects. Redwoods get big after a few hundred years but take much longer to develop their most unique features, such as dazzling canopy gardens of ferns, berry bushes, small trees, and fauna normally found on the forest floor. Van Pelt and colleagues point out that in a bona fide old-growth ecosystem some of the trees are old enough to fall over and decompose, forming “a silvatic mosaic much older than its oldest trees.”

The Importance of Redwood Forests for Biodiversity

While redwood forest restoration is largely a gift to the distant future, some life comes back quickly. Ben Blom, director of stewardship and restoration for Save the Redwoods League, says that coho salmon can reappear a year after roads are repaired and stop bleeding sediment into creeks. The response can be equally swift as sunlight returns to the floor of a thinned forest, diversifying understory plants.

The Need for Expanded Restoration Efforts

Unfortunately, these laudable recovery efforts are currently confined, like the old growth, to tiny islands scattered within a battered forest landscape. Redwoods Rising, a partnership between the Redwood National and State Parks and the Save the Redwoods League, reaches just 600 acres annually. The ancient redwood forest once occupied 2 million acres of fog-bathed coastal hills, from central California to the Oregon border. Of that, around 400,000 acres of land have been paved, urbanized, and otherwise irrevocably converted. Of the remaining 1.6 million acres still growing trees, only 5 percent has never been logged and contains the iconic forest giants, the tallest trees on the planet. Over 75 percent of redwood lands are privately owned and, in general, logged repeatedly. Trees that can live 2,000 years are cut after just a few decades of life.

The Benefits of Large Reserves and Sustainable Management

California and the country should bring back a redwood landscape, not just groves. Save the Redwoods League calls for protection and restoration of 800,000 acres, representing half the remaining 1.6 million. They estimate that over 300,000 acres are already in some sort of conservation status, so an additional 500,000 acres need protection. We should do it. As experts noted in the respected scientific tome, The Redwood Forest, “Ultimately, only within intact ecosystems will the redwoods endure.” Big, unbroken redwood forests, they explained, would be resilient to climate change; cover diverse habitats; and provide space for species with large ranges, like rare Pacific fisher and Humboldt marten. Large reserves also secure the headwaters of rivers where salmon will hopefully once again spawn in huge numbers, delivering crucial pulses of oceanic protein to the forest.

The Financial Feasibility of Restoration

Financially, the battered redwood lands of Northern California are well within our means. In 1998, San Francisco’s prominent Fisher family bought 235,000 acres for $200 million to form the Mendocino Redwood Company. That’s $375 million in today’s money. A deal that good is probably not available today, but adding a half million public acres should be doable for a sum in the low billions. Between 1993 and 2020, Californians approved 32 bond issues with an average price tag of $5 billion. An ambitious conservation plan that melds science, culture, economics, and local knowledge could open our wallets for trees that will pay back in many ways for a very long time.

The Role of Eminent Domain and Corporate Ownership

Still, the 75 percent of redwood

SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?

  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 15: Life on Land

2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?

  • SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
  • SDG 15.2: Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests
  • SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats

3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?

  • Indicator for SDG 13.2: Number of policies, strategies, and plans that integrate climate change measures
  • Indicator for SDG 15.2: Forest area as a proportion of total land area
  • Indicator for SDG 15.5: Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas

4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators

SDGs Targets Indicators
SDG 13: Climate Action 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning Number of policies, strategies, and plans that integrate climate change measures
SDG 15: Life on Land 15.2: Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests Forest area as a proportion of total land area
15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas

Behold! This splendid article springs forth from the wellspring of knowledge, shaped by a wondrous proprietary AI technology that delved into a vast ocean of data, illuminating the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Remember that all rights are reserved by SDG Investors LLC, empowering us to champion progress together.

Source: e360.yale.edu

 

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