By tracking the fate of trees, scientists aim to better understand what's happening in the forest so they can predict future changes.
Within the old-growth forests of California's Yosemite National Park and the forests of southwest Washington, some of the world's oldest and tallest trees are dying off at increasing rates. Some have attributed this to prolonged drought and the effects of climate change, but some causes of tree death aren't directly related to climate. Scientists don't know for sure what is causing these tree deaths.
Large trees serve important functions in these forests. They provide habitat for a range of species, including rare northern and southern spotted owls, they provide seed-stock for new generations of trees, and importantly, they sequester about half of above-ground carbon. Even after they die, these trees continue to play a significant ecological role. A 500-year old tree that has fallen in the woods can affect the ecosystem for hundreds of years, serving as wildlife habitat and storing moisture, carbon, and other nutrients.
Join researchers in the heart of these Western forests and become part of a CSI team (citizen science investigation!) to determine why these majestic and critically important trees are dying off. Help to understand how these forests are changing, which may be a harbinger of what's to come.