An ancient forest of giant sequoia trees was saved from ongoing exploitation after the conservation nonprofit Save the Redwoods League (SRL) rallied to buy the section of trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, according to Mother Nature Network (MNN).
The forest, known as Alder Creek, is home to trees that are hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old. It had been privately owned for generations by a family in the region who regularly logged the trees for profit.
SRL had been trying to buy Alder Creek for more than two decades, MNN reported, and made headway in negotiations last year.
They then raised $15.65 million from 8,500 donors from around the world to secure the purchase.
The nonprofit plans to eventually transfer the forest to the US Forest Service, but until that happens they’ll enlist experts to catalogue and study the trees to learn more about their provenance and what they’ll need to survive in the years ahead.
"This gives us the opportunity to understand what's going on with these new threats and exposures, and to do the forest management that needs to be done," Sam Hodder, president and CEO of SRL, told MNN. "Science-driven forest stewardship to reduce the fuel load in a way that restores the natural balance for the giant sequoia. To help prepare these groves for the hotter, drier fires that are coming."
Giant sequoia trees, which are native to California, are endangered due to decades of logging and forest fires. The trees are also threatened by the effects of climate change. As snow melts in the region, rainfall becomes less common and temperatures increase — the massive trees then struggle to get enough water.
There are now just 73 groves of Sequoias left, according to the Guardian.
The decline of the sequoias mirrors the decline of forests more broadly around the world.
More than a century of deforestation — driven by agriculture, meat production, urbanization, and more — has devastated ancient forests ranging from the Amazon to Borneo. More than 40% of the world’s forests have been lost due to human activity.
Forests like these are critical to regulating the Earth’s climate, filtering the atmosphere, providing sources of food and water, and fostering biodiversity.
In the decades ahead, forests will either blunt or accelerate the impacts of climate change. If forests are protected and expanded, absorbing more carbon in the process, climate change will be less severe.
If they’re cleared, converted into asphalt roads or flat fields for cattle grazing, then catastrophic feedback loops will likely occur.