Christian Long

Richard Preston: The Giant Trees

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 9:54 am

Reflection by CONNOR S.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Richard Preston:  The Giant Trees

Richard Preston’s TEDTalk shows us some of the most majestic organisms in the world, the redwood trees. These trees are believed to be thousands of years old, are very tall, and very few people have explored them from above the ground. Preston is one of these people, and enlightens us on these amazing trees.

The redwoods are believed to be thousands of years old. Before anyone had climbed one of these giant trees, ecologists believed the canopy was an ecological desert. At 19, a man named Steve Sillet free-climbed one of these giant trees with his friend Marwood Harris, and they jumped through open space at heights where a fall meant death. After reaching the canopy, they discovered the opposite of a ecological desert; they found a very life filled labyrinth of trees.

Image:  A redwood tree from his TED Talk.

Preston then talks about his experiences with the redwood trees, and about the trunks that sprout from the tree itself. As the tree grows, more and more trunks grow from it, and then some of these trunks grow back into the tree, creating support through flying buttresses, which were used in the architecture of cathedrals. The further you go up in the trees, the more complex this primeval forest becomes. Gardens of sorts can be found at the tops of trees, with organisms never seen before. Another strange discovery was made below the redwood trees in the soil. Copepods, ocean crustaceans that whales feed on, were found in the redwood forest soil, but nobody can figure out how these found themselves there.

Preston then begins to talk about the destruction of other primeval forests like the redwoods, such as the Eastern Hemlock forest. The forests were destroyed by the carrying of an Asian parasite to the forest, and because the parasite had escaped its predators, the entire forest fell to it, an entire ecosystem destroyed. The few primeval glimpses of the past are slowly being destroyed, and if we are not careful, could all disappear forever, including the redwood forest.

Redwoods are an ecosystem that exists nowhere else in the world. Species have been seen that appear to be unique to specific trees. If people had been allowed to continue logging the redwood forest, they could have disappeared from Earth forever, like the Eastern Hemlock forest.

We must do what we can to protect these majestic trees, and keep ourselves from destroying entire ecosystems for our own short term benefits.

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