How Will Redwoods Fare Under Wildfires in a Changing Climate?

To reduce the threat of severe wildfires, we need to act on climate change, protect and restore our forests, and learn to live with “good” fire.

Kristen Shive Save the Redwoods, Autumn/Winter 2020

The record-breaking 2020 wildfire season shocked Californians as smoke blocked out the sun and severely degraded air quality. By mid-October, 4.25 million acres of California had burned, and fire season was still far from over. Our hearts are with the many who lost homes and livelihoods, and we are saddened by the near-complete infrastructure losses at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, and the miles of park trails that have been impacted. For this article, we focus our attention on the forest itself. Of the acres burned by mid-October, coast redwoods comprised more than 81,000 acres, including more than 11,000 acres of old growth (roughly 9 percent of all old growth left). In the giant sequoia range, roughly 16,000 acres (or 34 percent of the range) had burned, most of which is old growth. We have yet to assess the fire effects on the ground, but as with most modern wildfires, there will likely be a mix of beneficial and detrimental ecological effects.

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