From The Associated Press (Brian Malley):
Lightning-sparked wildfires killed thousands of giant sequoias this year, leading to a staggering two-year death toll that accounts for up to nearly a fifth of Earth’s largest trees, officials said Friday.
Fires in Sequoia National Park and surrounding Sequoia National Forest tore through more than a third of groves in California and torched an estimated 2,261 to 3,637 sequoias, which are the largest trees by volume.
Nearby wildfires last year killed an unprecedented 7,500 to 10,400 giant sequoias that are only native in about 70 groves scattered along the western side of the Sierra Nevada range. Losses now account for 13% to 19% of the 75,000 sequoias greater than 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter.
Blazes so intense to burn hot enough and high enough to kill so many giant sequoias — trees once considered nearly fire-proof — puts an exclamation point on climate change’s impact. A warming planet that has created hotter droughts combined with a century of fire suppression that choked forests with thick undergrowth have fueled flames that have sounded the death knell for trees dating to ancient civilizations.