Save Our Sequoias: Protect Yosemite’s Giant Sequoia Groves - 2016

Giant sequoias bear the scars of wildfire and curious visitors alike. Conservancy funding is helping park scientists learn how giant sequoias respond to fire and will protect them for the future.

Yosemite’s giant sequoias are an awe-inspiring symbol of the park’s wild beauty and history. While scientists have learned much about these majestic trees, little is known about the factors that affect young sequoia seedlings and saplings.

In 2016, park scientists, assisted by a local college intern, delved into a third year of research in Yosemite’s two northern giant sequoia groves, Merced and Tuolumne. Their work focused on identifying specific environmental conditions young sequoias need to survive, including above- and below-ground temperatures, light, humidity and soil composition. The team surveyed more than 1oo different plots, counted 565 sequoia seedlings, and collected soil and needle samples for analysis.  

As scientists studied the juvenile trees and their habitat, restoration crews and volunteers turned their attention to protecting the sequoias from root trampling and other disturbances. They installed new fencing and signs, restored "eco-graffiti" carvings in tree trunks, naturalized informal "social" trails, and helped educate visitors about minimizing human impacts in the grove. 

Your gifts helped fund research and restoration to protect Yosemite’s young giants and ensure that sequoias continue to thrive in these natural havens for many generations. Thank you for supporting your park!

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park, Student Conservation Association, and University of California, Merced.

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Project Notes
Giant sequoia with scorched crown in Yosemite's Tuolumne Grove

In 2013, we were startled to discover that there are few young trees and no seedlings in either Merced or Tuolumne Grove, likely a result of insufficient fire. Serendipitously, as a consequence of actions taken during the Rim Fire, these two groves (the Merced Grove prevented from burning; the Tuolumne Grove back-burned as a protection measure) have become an inadvertent controlled study testing the recommendation for increased clearing and understory burning.

Alison Colwell
Botanist
Yosemite National Park