How do Sequoias survive wildfires?

Photo by marco allasio on

Sequoiadendron giganteum also known as Giant Sequoia is a sole living specie in the genus Sequoiadendron. It is one of three species of coniferous tress known as redwood. Giant sequoia specimens are one of the most massive tress on earth. Giant Sequoia naturally occurs only in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is 3200-3266 years old.

The effects of fire on Sequoia are quite surprising

Stephen C. Sillett an ecologist with Humboldt State University who specializes in tall trees mentioned,

“Full grown Sequoia are adopted to survive even the hottest wildfires. They have fibrous, fire resistant bark that can grow up to two feet thick. Although fires can damage the biggest tress, they usually don’t kill them”

Studies show that there is a connection between the fire and the sequoia. The fire benefit the Giant sequoia in many ways rather than doing harm to them. Fire is one of the major processes essential to the health of giant sequoia groves.

  • Fire opens cones of sequoia:

 Fire make the cones of the sequoia to open and their seedlings are exposed to the soil of ground where they can grow and the light can reach them which is not possible when they are present inside the cones.

  • Germination of Sequoia Seeds:

Researches have proved that fires play an essential role in germination of sequoia seeds and recruitment of sequoia seedlings. The germination and recruitment of sequoia that the researchers have seen in the century when there were small scale prescribed fires, was not seen before and it is believed that it would not be possible without the fire.

  • Reduction of competition:

Fire actually reduces competition for sequoia trees. The fire kill the competitors like Abies concolor and Calocedrus decurrens. These competitors are shade tolerant and they can grow in forest litter and duff. Due to absence of fire heavy amount of forest litter can accumulate which results in increased growth and number of these competitors’ species. So fire is necessary for the reduction of competitors around sequoia and results in better growth of sequoia.

  • Elimination of unwanted trees:

Fire helps to eliminate the insect attack vulnerable and disease vulnerable trees. This will also help in the better growth of sequoia as the number of competitors are reduced. Thus fire will also act as the eliminator of unwanted or less beneficial trees and other plant species. This will help to maintain the wildlife.

  • Reduces major fire hazards:

 Controlled small scale fires actually prevent major fire hazards. It cleans up the forest litter which gets accumulated otherwise. This piled up litter and the dried out wood of the dead trees can result in spread of fire. So small scale controlled firs are necessary to clean these things up. And reduces the danger of major fire hazard that can damage sequoia.

  • Nutrition cycle:

Last but not the least small scale fires help to regulate the nutrition cycle. The ash of the litter and dead plants add nutrients to the soil that can help in the better growth of sequoia trees.

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