A sunset is obscured by smoke-filled skies near Alder Creek Grove, where sequoia trees had grown on this Sierra Nevada ridge top for well over 500 years. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

As Wildfires Decimate the Giant Sequoia, California Faces Unprecedented Loss

Jun 5, 2021 at 6:00am

Alex Wigglesworth

When wildfire tore through giant sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada last year, researchers estimated hundreds of the towering trees — maybe 1,000 — were killed.

Now, almost nine months later, experts have revised that figure tenfold. A new draft report puts the toll at 7,500 to 10,600 trees — 10% to 14% of the world’s natural population.

“The whole thing is surprising and devastating and depressing,” said Christy Brigham, chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and lead author of the report.

The finding startled scientists because sequoias are adapted to thrive in fire, with bark that’s up to 2 feet thick, branches that reach above flames and cones that release seeds when exposed to a burst of heat.

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