SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS (CBS13) – With the recent wildfires plaguing California, the destruction has taken its toll on the large giant sequoia population. The National Park Service estimates that 3-5 percent of the world’s population burned just in 2021.

Between 2,261 and 3,637 of these large giant sequoias in California, defined as four feet or more in diameter, have either been burned completely or are estimated to die within the next 3 to 5 years.

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While some levels of forest fires can actually be beneficial to these trees, the high severity fires that we’ve seen do much more damage.

“Giant sequoias require periodic low-to-moderate intensity fire to maintain healthy ecology, a history of fire suppression across the American West has resulted in denser forests with high levels of fuel loading. In combination with hotter droughts driven by climate change, these conditions have changed how wildfire burns in the southern Sierra Nevada, resulting in large areas of high severity fire effects and massive fire events,” said the National Park Service.

Superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Clay Jordan, is doing what he can to save these ancient giants while simultaneously reopening the national parks after the pandemic.

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“The sobering reality is that we have seen another huge loss within a finite population of these iconic trees that are irreplaceable in many lifetimes,” said Jordan. “As we navigate the complex process of restoring access to the parks, we will continue to work diligently with our partners in the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition to become ever-better stewards of these incredibly special places, despite the enormous challenges we face.”

While the number of dead trees is high, it still is an improvement from 2020, in which the highly destructive Castle Fire, in the same region, resulted in the death of 10-14 percent of the world’s native population of large giant sequoias.

Firefighters are also using new tactics aimed at reducing losses to the large giant sequoia population, such as protecting these trees from high severity fire.

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If this trend continues and public awareness becomes more widespread, the large giant sequoia population will still be around for generations to come.