Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Richard Preston on the giant trees

By Darby A.

There are many mysteries in our world. Some have been discovered and some are still yet unknown. Richard Preston talks about one of the mysteries in our world that has been found, but not truly discovered. They are better known as the Coast Redwood trees. The passion with which he speaks as he shares his knowledge and his worries concerning these trees, plus the interesting facts he presents, make his TED Talk an overall success.

The Coast Redwood trees lie on the coast of California, where the state gets most of its rainfall. Not much is known about the trees other than that they are extremely old and are becoming extinct. Redwoods are the tallest living organism in the world. These amazing trees can grow to 380 feet tall with a diameter of 30 feet. Richard tells us that many things are theorized when it comes to these trees because nobody has drilled through them or has tested the tree enough to know much. He speculates that these trees can grow to 2500 years old, if not older. It is believed that the insides of the older trees are hollow, making it even harder to determine the exact age if someone were to drill into them. The Redwood tree they believe to be the oldest they call Gaia. They approximate Gaia's age to range from 3000 to 5000 years old. Redwood's sprout from a seed that is about the size of a dime, maybe smaller. Due to the fact that these trees are so monstrous when one is observing it, they are limited to the view that a mouse would have if it was "at the foot of an elephant." Richard had heard about very few people that had climbed the big Redwoods. He decided he wanted to do it too, and even brought along his family. Together they climbed, slept, ate, and explored their way up the tree into its canopy. The complexities of the canopy were immense. Gardens of mosses, plants, and different species swarmed the treetops. These trees held their own little world and ecosystem of great importance. Richard talked of the abilities that the tree is known to have. Along with growing freakishly tall and monstrously wide, they also have the ability to grow trunks on their own trunks, and create several more trees on the same tree. Theses extra trunks are called iluvatars. The "additions" or "layers" can also grow back into themselves, and when this occurs it is called a flying butress. All of these layers and fusing of branches, trunks, and trees helps to make the tree stronger and enables the tree to last for many years. Redwoods also have the ability to grow roots wherever they want. They can pull the moisture from the air and bring it into themselves to gain as much nutrients as possible, so that they can grow new roots. So much life lives in these trees, and that is why Richard Preston is worried about their future.

From the 1970's to the early 1990's, the Redwood rainforest was part of a massive clear-cutting. Only 96% remains. The 40% of the 96% remained intact, wild, and eventually protected through parks along the coast of California. The amount of Redwoods had increased somewhat since then, but then another problem has arisen. A parasite from Asia called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid went from attacking the Redwoods in Asia to the ones on the coast of California. These parasites were able to get by their predators, and with nothing left in their way, attacked the Redwoods. The Redwoods had no resistance to them, whatsoever, so now, when you look across the rainforest, all you see is dead tree after dead tree. Richard fears that this parasite, which humans brought over, could be the extinction of the Redwood trees.

The TED Talk that Richard delivered was unique on its own. His passion was clearly shown when he told us of his own experiences, along with his family's. He started out by building up the Redwoods importance, and increased its value over his talk. This was quite effective because by the end, when the trees are now known to be in a helpless state, you feel the need that you must do something, even though you do not really know what that is. Even though Richard didn't use much humour, his facts were interesting and informative enough to keep you engaged and wanting to hear more.

Richard Preston states that the Redwood's ecosystems are the "most important ecosystems in North America." The fact that they carry so much life, but are dying because of the carelessness of humans is enough to give anyone a heavy heart. I would recommend this video not only because of Richard's passionate speaking skills, but because of the knowledge that you gain from his talk. The information that Richard shows us leads me to believe that he's been interested in these giant trees for quite some time. His passion and feelings for the trees clearly shows as he describes what he knows. People tend to believe that the bigger you are, the stronger you are, but that is clearly not the case all the time. Sometimes, even the biggest of us all need a little helping hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment