Saturday, July 20, 2024

UK giant redwoods outnumber Californian Kin

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Giant Redwoods Thriving in the UK, Outnumbering Native California Population.In a surprising turn of events, giant redwood trees, renowned as the world’s largest trees, are not only flourishing in the UK but have surpassed their native population in California. A recent study reveals that an estimated 500,000 of these colossal trees now grace the UK landscape, outnumbering the 80,000 found in their native Californian range.

Initially introduced to the UK approximately 160 years ago by the Victorians, these towering giants are thriving and growing at a comparable rate to their counterparts in the United States, according to the study conducted by scientists from Kew’s botanic garden at Wakehurst in Sussex. While the tallest in California can reach heights of 90 meters, the tallest in the UK stands at 54.87 meters. However, this discrepancy is attributed to the relative youth of the introduced trees, as giant redwoods can live for over 2,000 years.

“Half a million trees is quite a lot to go under the radar until now, but it’s when you start looking for them in the landscape, and compiling these datasets, that you realise how many there are,” stated Dr. Phil Wilkes, one of the study’s authors.

Giant redwoods, Sequoiadendron giganteum, became a botanical status symbol for the wealthy Victorians, often planted in the grand estates of that era. Today, these majestic trees can be found in various settings across the UK, from sweeping avenues to standalone specimens.

To assess their adaptation to the UK climate, scientists selected nearly 5,000 trees for study at Wakehurst, Benmore Botanic Garden in Scotland, and Havering Country Park in Essex. Using laser scanners to measure heights and volumes, the researchers found that the trees were growing at a rate comparable to those in their native Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

Giant redwoods: World's largest trees 'thriving in UK' - BBC News

Dr. Wilkes explained, “Where they grow in California, it’s cooler and moister than you would typically envisage California to be, and we have a reasonably similar climate here – it’s very wet, and they need the moisture to grow.”

The study also investigated the carbon dioxide absorption capabilities of these giant redwoods. While not a solution to climate change on their own, the sheer size of these trees allows them to store significant amounts of carbon dioxide in their wood.

Despite their success in the UK, the scientists emphasize that planting giant redwoods alone is not enough to address climate change. Instead, they suggest integrating these majestic trees into mixed forest plantations alongside a variety of other trees, both native and imported.

In the light of climate threats facing giant redwoods in California, the UK could potentially become a new haven for these awe-inspiring trees. Prof. Mat Disney from University College London notes that, in terms of climate, the UK may offer a less pressured environment for them compared to California, although he acknowledges changing conditions in the UK due to climate change.

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Local authorities in the UK are actively contributing to the proliferation of giant redwoods by planting saplings in public parks and recreation grounds. Prof. Disney emphasizes their rapid growth, stating, “Once they reach about 60m, they will be the tallest trees in Britain, and then they will keep on growing.”

However, despite their success, the study notes that giant redwoods are not reproducing in the UK due to specific conditions required for seed germination, making it unlikely for them to dominate native forests in the foreseeable future.

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