Loss of Stature for Giant

December 12, 2012
In this 2009 photo released by Steve Sillett, The President, a Giant Sequoia Tree, is shown in Sequoia National Park, Calif. After 3,240 years the Giant Sequoia is still growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how they and coastal redwoods will be impacted by climate change and whether they have a role to play in combatting it.

 In this 2009 photo released by Steve Sillett, The President, a Giant Sequoia Tree, is shown in Sequoia National Park, Calif. After 3,240 years the Giant Sequoia is still growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how they and coastal redwoods will be impacted by climate change and whether they have a role to play in combatting it. / Steve Sillett
Written by The Associated Press

Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the famous General Grant giant sequoia tree is suffering its loss of stature in silence.

What once was the world’s No. 2 biggest tree has been supplanted thanks to the most comprehensive measurements taken of the largest living things on Earth. The new No. 2 is The President, a 54,000-cubic-foot gargantuan not far from the Grant in Sequoia National Park.

After 3,240 years, the giant sequoia still is growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how the sequoias and coastal redwoods will be affected by climate change and whether these trees have a role to play in combatting it.

“I consider it to be the greatest tree in all of the mountains of the world,” said Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher whose team from Humboldt State University is seeking to mathematically assess the potential of California’s iconic trees to absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide.

The researchers are a part of the 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative funded by the Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco. The measurements of The President, reported in the current National Geographic, dispelled the previous notion that the big trees grow more slowly in old age.

It means, the experts say, the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb during photosynthesis continues to increase over their lifetimes.

In addition to painstaking measurements of every branch and twig, the team took 15 half-centimeter-wide core samples of The President to determine its growth rate, which they learned was stunted in the abnormally cold year of 1580 when temperatures in the Sierra hovered near freezing even in the summer and the trees remained dormant.

But that was an anomaly, Sillett said. The President adds about one cubic meter of wood a year during its short six-month growing season, making it one of the fastest-growing trees in the world. Its 2 billion leaves are thought to be the most of any tree on the planet, which would also make it one of the most efficient at transforming carbon dioxide into nourishing sugars during photosynthesis.

“We’re not going to save the world with any one strategy, but part of the value of these great trees is this contribution and we’re trying to get a handle on the math behind that,” Sillett said.

After the equivalent of 32 working days dangling from ropes in The President, Sillett’s team is closer to having a mathematical equation to determine its carbon conversion potential, as it has done with some less famous coastal redwoods. The team has analyzed a representative sample that can be used to model the capacity of the state’s signature trees.

More immediately, however, the new measurements could lead to a changing of the guard in the land of giant sequoias. The park would have to update signs and brochures — and someone is going to have to correct the Wikipedia entry for “List of largest giant sequoias,” which still has The President at No. 3.

Now at 93 feet in circumference and with 45,000 cubic feet of trunk volume and another 9,000 cubic feet in its branches, the tree named for President Warren G. Harding is about 15 percent larger than Grant, also known as America’s Christmas Tree. Sliced into one-foot by one-foot cubes, The President would cover a football field.

Giant sequoias grow so big and for so long because their wood is resistant to the pests and disease that dwarf the lifespan of other trees, and their thick bark makes them impervious to fast-moving fire.

It’s that resiliency that makes sequoias and their taller coastal redwood cousin worthy of intensive protections — and even candidates for cultivation to pull carbon from an increasingly warming atmosphere, Sillett said. Unlike white firs, which easily die and decay to send decomposing carbon back into the air, rot-resistant redwoods stay solid for hundreds of years after they fall.

Though sequoias are native to California, early settlers traveled with seedlings back to the British Isles and New Zealand, where a 15-foot diameter sequoia that is the world’s biggest planted tree took root in 1850. Part of Sillett’s studies involves modeling the potential growth rate of cultivated sequoia forests to determine over time how much carbon sequestering might increase.

All of that led him to a spot 7,000 feet high in the Sierra and to The President, which he calls “the ultimate example of a giant sequoia.” Compared to the other giants whose silhouettes are bedraggled by lightning strikes, The President’s crown is large with burly branches that are themselves as large as tree trunks.

The world’s biggest tree is still the nearby General Sherman with about 2,000 cubic feet more volume than the President, but to Sillett it’s not a contest.

“They’re all superlative in their own way,” Sillett said.

 

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New Year’s resolution: Become a volunteer

December 10, 2012

Is volunteering for you?

Do you like being outdoors in a beautiful natural setting or would you like to spend some time in a garden?

Sequoia Riverlands Trust would love to have you as a volunteer at Kaweah Oaks Preserve or Dry Creek Preserve!

If you’re thinking about doing some volunteering in the New Year, here are some tips for finding that perfect volunteer spot.

1. Identify the causes you’re passionate about.

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(Kids at Kaweah Oaks Preserve)

Do you feel strongly about a particular problem or issue? Just to think, “Oh, well, volunteering would be a nice thing to do,” isn’t really enough. You might start, but will you stick with it? If you feel strongly about something, such as nature, open space, animals, homelessness or helping children, then that is a very good sign and the start of a great volunteer experience.

2. Determine how much time you have.

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(Nature guides showcasing preserve on walk)
Do you want something that is short and infrequent? Or could you donate a certain amount of time each week or month? This is something you’ll want to share with the nonprofits you talk with. There are volunteer opportunities that can fit any time commitment, from being a Girl Scout leader for a school year to registering attendees at a charity event for a few hours.
Nonprofits have become quite adept at tailoring volunteer opportunities to fit our modern lifestyles. For instance, Sparked, a website that helps people engage in “microvolunteering,” matches volunteers who just want to devote snatches of time to their causes with nonprofits that have suitable projects.You may even be able to use work time to volunteer. Many companies have employee volunteer programs, days of service during which teams of employees help a cause, or even loan out “skilled” volunteers to help with sophisticated projects at charities. You can even find a way to use your professional skills to benefit others through a matching service like Catchafire.

3. Contact relevant organizations.

Look up the organizations in your locale that deal with the issues you care about. Contact them and ask if they have any volunteer opportunities. You can also get an idea of what volunteer opportunities are out there by visiting the many online volunteer matching services.Your local media are also great resources. Community newspapers and the websites of your favorite TV stations often have news or listings of volunteer needs right in your neighborhood. Be sure to encourage your neighbors and friends to tell you about their volunteer experiences and how they got involved.Contact one to three organizations and then visit them in person. Ideally, you’ll meet with a volunteer coordinator and get a good idea of how the nonprofit works, the kinds of volunteer opportunities that are available, and how good a fit it is for your goals. It’s a good idea to volunteer for a small project before getting extensively involved. If it doesn’t work out, you can move on. Finding your right volunteer match can make the difference between being a volunteer dropout or a happy, dedicated one.

4. Look for a volunteer opportunity that will be fulfilling.

(Getty Images”)

Volunteer work should not be entirely selfless. It is important that you enjoy what you are doing so that you will continue doing it. Think about what you like to do. Are you a “take charge” kind of person? If so, you won’t be happy knocking on doors or stuffing envelopes. Look for leadership opportunities at nonprofits, such as serving on a board of directors, helping with fundraising, or organizing an event.

On the other hand, you might not want something intellectually challenging. Perhaps you have enough of that in your own career and would like to so something simple but meaningful. Maybe you would enjoy cleaning up a vacant lot, planting a garden or signing people up for a charity run.

5. Match your skills to the volunteer opportunity.

Make a list of the things you are good at so that you can share them with the volunteer coordinators that you talk with. People who are sophisticated with computers, for instance, are in high demand at nonprofits. But your skills might be a facility with people, ability to do detailed work such as keeping meticulous records, hands-on ability such as carpentery or sewing, a talent with the written word, or public speaking.

6. Be prepared for a challenge.

(Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation”)

Boredom and impatience with the process are the biggest threats to a fulfilling volunteer experience. Some nonprofits will be disorganized and ill prepared for volunteers. Don’t stay with that kind of situation. If they deserve you, they will be ready to use you effectively.

If you work for a high-powered corporation, you may get impatient with the way things are done at a nonprofit. Try to refrain from telling them how to do their job.

If you work with things instead of people, you may have to rethink how you operate. Working with people and their problems takes a different and more patient mindset.

7. Expect personal growth.

(Getty Images”)

You may be challenged by having to deal with people who are less educated than yourself, from different backgrounds, and who have a different ethnic background. For sure, your stereotypes will crumble as you witness the dignity of all people no matter their circumstances.

These challenges are healthy ones and will result in your own personal growth if you persevere rather than run away at your first glimpse of life as others live it.


Holiday Portraits and Rare Plant Sale

December 7, 2012
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Cactus sale and portrait fundraiser Saturday at Kaweah Oaks Preserve
Dec. 06
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Kaweah Oaks Preserve will be hopping this Saturday as families dressed in their holiday best pose for portraits and a rare Christmas cactus sale takes place.

Both the portraits and plant sale benefit Sequoia Riverlands Trust, caretakers of this preserve located east of Visalia on Road 182.

Professional holiday portraits by CJHopper of PhotoMenage are by appointment only. Call now for an appointment as space is limited. Cost is $55 for the 20-minute photo shoot and one 8×10 print. To make an appointment, call CJHopper at 595-9691.

Sequoia Riverlands Trust is selling Christmas cacti collected by Andrew Frazier, SRT’s native plant nursery manager. This is not the typical Christmas cactus sold in nurseries. The sweet-scented, large blooms have cream colored petals with bright yellow highlights. They bloom at night about two nights a year in the spring and are called the Queen of the Night.

The bare-root cacti cost $5 to $25. Native plants and other cacti will also be available for purchase at the plant sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call Kelly Ryan at Sequoia Riverlands Trust at 738-0211, ext. 105 or email atkelly@sequoiariverlands.org.