Some of them have lived for thousands of years, but specialists are wondering whether the massive and beautiful California conifers known as coast redwoods and giant sequoias will continue to endure.
Given the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet, many experts are concerned about the future of such species. But a relatively new gene mapping technology may help increase the chances and hopes for the continuation of these ancient and iconic tree species.
Sampling the History of the Redwoods and Sequoias
Individual giant sequoias have been alive for nearly 4,000 years, according to records. It’s not unusual for healthy coast redwoods to thrive and continue living for hundreds of years. But environmental and climate changes over the last several decades have had negative effects on California’s famous northern forests.
While a number of groups are working on protecting these trees against pollution and habitat loss, others are opting for a longer term approach. Specialists are looking to do so by preserving their genetic diversity. To do this, they must conduct some genome sampling of these trees’ “cousins”.
Since some of these trees are so successful at surviving droughts, fires, and insects, scientists are hoping that these biological secrets can be passed on to future generations of the species.
DNA Sampling for Trees, the Method
Scientists have been gathering DNA samples from species representatives at two California locations. The samples were taken from the seeds of two healthy and especially old aged trees. Although genome mapping is difficult because of the complexity of the genetic material in these trees, new mapping technologies are helping make the process easier.
This genome mapping project for the redwoods and sequoias is expected to end next year. When completed, scientists will have a “reference guide” that they hope will help future foresters ensure that healthy redwoods and sequoias continue to grow in the limited habitats that these trees must now inhabit. In turn, this should help guarantee that these majestic species will continue to grace their native Pacific habitats for hundreds and thousands of years to come.
“Understanding redwoods at the genetic level will help us continue to protect both species over the coming millennia,” states the research team.
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