Last month, a propos of nothing in particular, a Giant Sequoia fell over in the only grove in the world that harbours them. The event was caught on video by some tourists and provides a definitive answer to the age old, deliberately misremembered question: When a tree falls in a forest, does it make a noise? The answer is ‘Yes’
A relative youth at a mere 1500 years old, the tree appeared to have fallen because increased rain had loosened soil around its shallow roots. This appears to be the way that these mature trees die. My family visited the Sequoia Forest National Park in 2006 and I found it profoundly disturbing to be in the presence of such ancient living things. It is good that they are now looked after sensitively, but human beings are ill equipped to cope with life-processes which take thousands of years rather than years. The trees only grow above a certain altitude where the humidity is just right to encourage their particular giganticism, but not too high that the temperature slows their growth. Given the geographical specificity of the species, and the generality of climate change, I fear for this species.