“Thriving in the UK” are the World’s Largest trees, the Giant Redwoods

Impressive redwoods, the largest trees on Earth, are thriving in the UK and have surpassed the number found in their original home in California.

The giants were introduced to the UK around 160 years ago, and a recent study indicates that they are increasing in size at a comparable rate to their American counterparts.

In the UK, there are around 500,000 trees, while California has 80,000 trees.

However, they have not reached their full height yet. In California, trees can grow as tall as 90 meters, while in the UK, the tallest tree reaches 54.87 meters.

However, this is due to the fact that the newly planted trees are still quite young. These majestic redwoods have a lifespan of over 2,000 years, giving hope for the UK’s trees to thrive as well.

“Half a million trees is quite a significant number to have gone unnoticed until this point, but once you begin searching for them in the environment and organizing these sets of information, you come to understand the extent of their presence,” shared Dr. Phil Wilkes, a study author based at Kew’s botanic garden at Wakehurst in Sussex.

The giant redwoods in the UK are reaching new heights thanks to the wet weather

The Victorians introduced giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) to the UK. Planted in the grand estates of the wealthy, they were the ultimate botanical status symbol.

Today, some are bustling down wide streets while others are standing alone or in pairs. However, they are easily recognizable: their dense, cone-shaped crowns tower above everything else.

Scientists have chosen a sample of almost 5,000 trees to study how they are adjusting to their surroundings in the UK. The study is taking place at Wakehurst, Benmore Botanic Garden in Scotland, and Havering Country Park in Essex.

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Using laser scanners, the heights and volumes of certain trees were measured without the need to cut them down.

The researchers discovered that the trees were growing at a similar rate to the giant redwoods in their original habitat in the Sierra Nevada mountains. According to Dr. Wilkes, the climate in the UK appears to be suitable for them.

“In the regions of California where they thrive, the climate is cooler and more humid than what most people would expect from California,” he explained.

“We have a climate that is quite similar – it’s very wet, and they require the moisture for growth.”

Scientists are making 3D scans of the trees

The researchers also examined the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees – they absorb and store the greenhouse gas, and planting additional trees can contribute to addressing climate change.

Researchers discovered that due to their immense size, giant redwoods can store significant amounts of carbon dioxide in their wood, although not as much as their US counterparts.

Dr. Wilkes explained that the trees at Wakehurst, standing at approximately 45m tall, store around 10 to 15 tonnes of carbon.

“However, when you consider the largest tree in California, with approximately 250 tonnes of carbon stored in it, these trees seem quite small in comparison.” But you know, these could become quite large.”

The researchers emphasize that planting forests of giant redwoods would not be sufficient to make a significant impact on reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, these impressive giants can contribute to a diverse forest plantation alongside a range of other trees, whether native or imported.

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The historic woods of California are at danger of losing their trees due to climate change

California’s natural wonders are facing challenges due to climate change, struggling with hotter and drier weather and more intense wildfires.

Is it possible for the UK to become their new residence?

Within a row of trees that once marked the entrance to a grand estate at Havering Country Park, Prof Mat Disney of University College London believes it could be a reality.

“When it comes to the climate, it’s likely that they’ll experience less pressure living here compared to California,” he remarked.

Although the trees are thriving in the UK, there is minimal risk of them spreading to our native forests because they require specific conditions to reproduce.

The research findings can be found in the Royal Society journal Open Science.

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