The importance of trees is no tall tale

Written By: Thatcher Michelsen May 7, 2012 0
Thanks to 200 years of logging, there is a significantly low number of valuable, large trees in forests across America.
Thanks to 200 years of logging, there is a significantly low number of valuable, large trees in forests across America.

A recent study showed that trees actually have a hierarchy of importance to the planet, based on how high they've grown and how wide they are.

While they provide shelter to a variety of vegetation and wildlife, trees also store an enormous amount of carbon, according to The New York Times. The bigger and older the tree is, the more valuable it is to the local ecosystem. That's what James Lutz, a research scientist from the University of Washington, wrote in his study that was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLos ONE, which is circulated by the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

"If a large tree dies, it can have an immediate effect, and takes a long time to replace," Lutz told the Times. "We should pay more attention to what's happening to them. Their fate is a harbinger of what's to come, perhaps."

Lutz and his team went to Yosemite National Park to measure the diameter of almost 34,500 trees, but found that only 1 percent – 489 trees – were more than a meter wide. For those wondering, the largest one they measured was a 7-foot-wide, 220-foot-tall sugar pine tree that Lutz estimated was roughly 350 years old.

Yosemite was chosen to be the study site because the researchers considered it to have an average-sized forest comparable to others across the country, according to the media outlet.

Because of that, they deducted that the number of these monster trees are in much smaller quantities than would be ideal thanks to 200 years of logging, ecosystem analysis professor from the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington, Jerry Franklin, explained to the news source.

Needless to say, more needs to be done to protect forests and important trees to keep Earth's ecosystem healthy.

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