Forests used to cover a large majority of land across the globe hundreds of years ago. Today forests cover just 31 percent of the world’s land surface. Deforestation due to logging, for agriculture and pastures as well as harvesting wood for fuel and industrial use have taken a heavy toll, wiping out critical wildlife habitat and releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere.
David Milarch, co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, has been striving to help save some of our most ancient treasures – some of the oldest trees still in existence in the world. For the past two decades, Milarch and his two sons have raced against time, snipping branches and seedlings from the world’s biggest and most durable trees and have created clones of them in hopes of restoring ancient forests and helping to fight climate change.
Today, the 24th annual celebration of Earth Day, marks a new beginning for these trees.
Ceremonial plantings of two dozen clones from California’s great redwoods are taking place today in seven countries – Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany and the United States. Though only 18 inches tall, these cloned trees are exact duplicates of three giant redwoods that were cut down in northern California more than a century ago. These include the one thought to have been more than 4,000 years old.
Milarch says that these ancient trees that he calls “champion trees” carry superior genes that allowed them to outlive others of their species. Scientists have scoffed at the notion of being able to clone them and have them survive.
Archangel currently has an inventory of several thousand clones in varying stages of growth taken from more than 70 redwoods and giant sequoias. The first planting of 250 of these took place in December near Port Orford, Oregon. Others are being planted today at Earth Day celebrations at the College of Marin in Marin County, California and in parks and estates in six other countries.
I’ll be writing more about this remarkable venture in the near future. For now, let’s hope that these small trees “take” and grow into the magnificent trees that their ancestors were.