They have horticulturally propagated redwood trees - that’s a relatively simple technique, commonly used by your average gardener.
What’s special here is that they found which conditions maximize the yield of the redwoods propagation and they are planting colonies of the new trees in areas around the world that offer particularly good/promising climatic conditions.
As these are very large trees, establishing large colonies can have a relatively meaningful impact in carbon capture.
One of the linked articles, however, shows plants growing in little plastic jars. This looks like "tissue culture", which takes a plant cell sample and causes it to grow in a culture medium. But, still, it's cells from the parent plant grown out.
For bacteria this is usually the normal way of reproducing but it happens in animals like famously sharks. But it happens in chickens, turkeys, reptiles, snakes.
There's also a cool intermediate form, like with plants. Trees and flowers are of course famously both male and female, but usually require sex to reproduce (sex in the sense of contact between male and female reproductive organs, through insects mostly)
There's even controversy because the list of animals that haven't been caught cloning themselves has been growing shorter and shorter over the past 30 years. But of course as soon as anyone points out "given this long list of animals where females can clone themselves, isn't it pretty likely humans do this as well, on occasion", everyone loses their minds (and no, the Jesus argument makes no sense: of course a natural clone is always female).
I live on a ranch where redwoods grow and I was interested in reforesting some of it in an attempt to offset the carbon emissions of my family, etc.
My very rough back of the envelope calculations suggested that planting 40 coast redwoods would offset the embedded carbon (carbon cost to manufacture) of a pickup truck and its ten year expected fuel use. I chose a pickup truck as a sort-of-worst-case-scenario.
This is workable and we've already started this project, but of course we have three cars so the number is 120 trees for a single family.
I'm not sure how well that scales. Not everyone lives in redwood climate and not everyone has ~20 acres of leftover scrub woods to reforest.
ALSO, and this has been a challenge, those back of the envelope calculations do not take into account the carbon cost of creating the trees in the first place. It seems like a rounding error, and I hope it is, but planting 40 trees involves a bunch of driving around and some earth moving and usually a chainsaw has to come out at some point and then we're buying supplies from a hardware store which were driven there by a truck .... and on and on and on ...
 This land was originally redwoods and douglas firs but was denuded of all large trees sometime before WW2 and is now a scrubby mess of bay trees and dying (SOD) oak trees. Planting redwoods is a return to the original landscape...
Green thumpers are notorious for taking samples - even from forbidden fruits to grow them at home.
Also, they're fast growing, so they capture carbon quickly, and store it for a long time. Plus the fact that, if they're harvested, the wood is relatively rot-resistant. So carbon could be stored over even longer periods, if the wood were used for ~permanent structures.
Still, there's something ironic about that way of thinking. Or at least, something anthrocentric. I recall seeing a huge tree in ~coastal Washington, perhaps this Sitka Spruce. And I recall a large sign, which explained how much could be built with it. Arguably the same attitude, but with different goals. Funny.
We could add nuclear weapons to that list, if we ever decided to use them.
I must be misunderstanding you; the majority of places in the world today are radically different than they were pre-human. That seems pretty inarguable.
0) Rather, the first known settlers. But then humans have arguably been settlers everywhere, except for particular parts of Africa.
So perhaps "terraforming" isn't the appropriate term. Maybe more like "un-terraforming". If CO2 goes runaway enough, we might even wipe out enough photosynthetic capacity (especially in the oceans) to undo the Great Oxygenation Event. And make the planet safe for anaerobes again.
-- it was destroyed by a windstorm in 2007, but I believe it did have such a sign before that. Probably all of the "worlds biggest" trees do.
I sort of remember that it was in Oregon, but doubted myself when I found the one in Washington.
Depends on how you define meaningful.
Worldwide, the total sequestered carbon in plants is equal to about 10 years of human emissions (~45yrs if we are talking net emissions).
If you increase the biomass by a percent or two, you basically buy yourself a few months emissions. Eventually that carbon is going to end up back in the atmosphere, too, but that at least is time shifted out by a few hundred years.
(source: I'm part of a Climate&Energy research group, though this particular subtopic is not my specialty)
Surely it's not size but speed of growth that matters? Wouldn't forests of Leylandii (a fast-growing conifer that can grow as fast as 1m/year) felled and resowed every few years/decades capture more carbon?
edit: see figure 6 in https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal..., for example. And http://science.time.com/2014/01/15/study-shows-older-trees-a... (https://www.nature.com/articles/nature12914) specifically for redwoods. Key quote: "at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree"
>Coast redwoods can grow three to ten feet per year.
Look, this is one of those cool cases where the free market may be able to help the environment instead of harming it. Sell these seedlings for $200/each. Some number of people (myself included) will happily buy them, then plant them wherever and the world has more of these amazing trees. The funds can be used to further the cause of helping forests and old trees.
However, redwoods are really, really destructive anywhere that isn't a wide open field. Their roots will tear up concrete and pipes. Also, they shed branches like crazy during rapid growth, which deals damage to surrounding structures or flora.
Just something to keep in mind! If you have space and they won't be a danger to current inhabitants of the area, go for it.
They may also have some requirements to thrive that aren't that common - IIRC, giant sequoias mostly grow in a fairly thin layer of dirt on top of rock, which means there's also quite a bit of water (slowly) flowing through that dirt since there's noplace for it to go. Not sure how much of that applies to the coastal redwoods being discussed here (they're related, and the common and genus names are confusing - these redwoods are genus Sequoia, but the giant sequoia are actually a different genus).
There's a fair amount of information online about growing either from seed or via cuttings. One key piece of advice: plan for that growth and don't plant within 10m of structures that you're going to want to keep long-term.
I now have a baby Metasequoia growing in the corner of my front lawn. The tree was a gift from the owner of the tree farm that supplied the Dawn redwood for the exhibit.
And even if you used seeds from “old trees”, there would be no guarantee that the entire genome in the seed originated from “old trees”, or that the relevant genes responsible for “getting old” are expressed to the same extend as in the old tree stumps.
I'm all for genetic diversity, but I think the researchers have a point when they use living cells from provably very, very old trees to establish new trees. Even if you took seeds that were known to have a genome originating from one or two “old trees” there would be significant genetic variation in the seeds, and it would take centuries before we know if a plant from a given seed has what it takes to become as old as its parent(s).
My point is that the stump thing is for marketing to an unknowing public, not based on trying to find the redwood tree genomes that will grow the oldest trees. I was trying to help public be a bit less unknowing on the subject.
Apples for instance, if grown from seed, likely will not carry all the properties of the parent plant. E.g., the fruit will not taste the same.
Apple trees mostly have desirable fruit bearing tissue grafted onto plain understock.
Also, some plants show different growth characteristics in mature tissue than in young tissue, but I don't know if that applies to the redwoods.
> ...some of the world’s oldest and largest coast redwoods, some of which were 3,000 years old...
> a nonprofit working to reestablish ancient redwood forests to help combat climate change. Coastal redwoods, which can grow an average 10 feet per year, sequester 250 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over their lives, compared to 1 ton for an average tree.
Yes, but over <3000 years, so the comparison doesn't tell anything without knowing the lifespan of an "average tree".
Not that it matters though, the achievement is great, and I hope this helps us return many species that went extinct only because they had the misfortune to exist at the same time as humans.
Am I missing something?
That said, modern "do nothing" approaches pushed by environmental "concerns" are the exact opposite of the over-logging. Sadly, no middle-ground was approched with towns that relied on sustainable logging and good forest management practices. I don't ever recall a conversation about such happening.
The recent debacles with PG&E? They are highly to blame for funneling "maintenance money" to their parent corporation for profits. However, in California, the National Forests vary greatly in their management practices as well. Plumas is pretty good at cleaning duff, downed trees, etc. Some of the others, not at all.
During the Detweiller and related fires, PG&E was offering to work with the NPS around Yosemite to clear dead trees due to bark beattle. NPS said no. Why? It would ruin the ambiance (of dead brown trees).
Drought, the beattle, etc. cause a number of issues for our forests in CA. However, management practices and hinderances due to some over reactions in environmental policy are jsut as bad.
It seems to me to be the most natural and clearly the cheapest too.
Perhaps simple steps like putting up fences or signs saying 'nature reserve, keep out" might be worthwhile, but I don't see how any more invasive steps will lead to a more natural forest.
Large wildfires are natural, like heart attacks. If we want to let nature be nature, we need to stay well clear, put up defined firebreaks, and let the forest burn down everything next to it periodically. And then accept half or more of certain states will be clouded in smoke some years.
Since people generally seem unwilling to do that, and live next to the forest, or just don’t like smokey cities, the next choice is to manage the forest and minimize the intensity of forest fires while having some control over the timing through managed burns. This has side benefits like increasing the air quality across the whole state, because you never get these giant fires.
The worst outcome seems to be having people live next to the forest while doing nothing, because we periodically have random disasters and financial messes.
Of course other factors than just temperature are swinging widely: California is probably drier than before. Increased winds may make fires more likely etc.
Other natural phenomena also don’t respect entry bans: invasive species come to mind, and so does pollution.
I don’t claim to know if interventions are helpful, nor if they could ever be helpful enough to make a real difference. And of course nature will survive, and even forests may eventually adapt to the new regime. But of course the knowledge that there will again be a forest in that location in a millennium or three is of little help to someone who wants to show their grandchildren an old-growth first.
We have to have some common sense boundaries on what is or is not natural for the term to have any usefulness in environmental discussions. In this case, the beetles are unnatural and invasive. Moreover, they're harmful in that they kill trees more quickly than the forest is equipped to handle.
I don't think a lot of imagination is needed to come up with the reason why we see these changes. It will only get worse before it gets better.
I'm no expert, just what I've gathered from paying attention to the news.
We did a tour of a local redwood companies tissue culture lab, and almost all the employees were female, and a fair few had developed severe arthritis in their work. Was very depressing to see.
See, as it turns out, plants already have this novel/ ingenious way of packaging the data required to make complete copies of into very discrete packages. They're called seeds, and in general, for the vast majority of cases, seeds which are often actually cheaper than dirt are just fine.
Only when you have a plant that has certain characteristics (GMO in a non-hereditary trait etc..) does this make real sense.
Having said that, it's even better to not produce the CO₂ in the first place of course.
Things like 8 hour work week, health benefits etc were achived in blood.