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May 11, 2011 / Dr. Toad

Take for humans, but keep ecosystem intact

If you missed the screening of Climbing Redwood Giants at the UW School of Forest Resources today, you can still stream it on Netflix and you should.

It’s a stunning documentary that follows the exploration of California’s giant redwood forest by two teams of scientists. Steven Sillet and his crew climb the tallest trees to the canopy and discover a hidden world with mats of soil, plants, insects and even a salamander species — all supported by the hundred-foot branches of these tallest living beings on Earth. On a different journey, Lindsey Holm and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Mike Fay cover the entire redwood forest region by foot, South (near Big Sur, CA) to North (9 miles into OR), in 11 months of walking.

Incredibly, robots make an appearance (nothing much gets done without robots these days) as Michael Nichols takes a unique undistorted photograph of the “mother tree” with a 3-camera system, over fourteen days, using 84 shots in the final picture (video).

But the most amazing historical perspective is the journey that our relationship to the trees took over the last 150 years: from clear-cutting miles of old-growth forest with no regard for regeneration, through two decades of a crazy stand-off between tree-living protesters and CA police that pepper-sprayed them directly in the eyes, to the new approach of selective logging, which for the first time in a century and a half is now making the redwood forest more productive, and puts the number of giant trees on an increase.

That’s what happens, apparently, when as Fay puts it in the end you “take for humans, but keep the ecosystem intact”.

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