September 20, 2021

The Value of the General Sherman Tree

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While there are many old trees, the oldest recorded living tree on record is a Great Bristlecone pine, believed to have a lifespan of over 5,000 years. Located in the White Mountains of California, this unnamed tree is considered the oldest living tree in the world. Methuselah, another Bristlecone pine located in Inyo County, California is second on the list, at an age of 4,847 years. And then we have General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, in the state of California. By volume, it is the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth. It is estimated to be around 2,300 to 2,700 years old. More than 400 acres around the General Sherman Tree underwent a prescribed burn as recently as 2019. Prescribed burns, in which fires are set intentionally and monitored closely, can maintain the health of a forest and prevent dry overgrowth of vegetation, this action may have been the key factor in saving Sherman from the wildfires and after it was carefully wrapped in fire retardant blankets. 

When we talk about the value of a tree it is important to remember that Old-growth forests are one of the few land uses where topsoil is created instead of destroyed. More carbon and nitrogen is retained in an old-growth forest than in younger forests. As for improving water quality and air quality there is nothing better than an old-growth forest. Every community will be enriched by having old-gowth forest surrounding them. Community forests are places for recreation and wildlife habitat, also providing essential ecosystem benefits which clean our water and air.

Trees provide numerous environmental, economic, and even health benefits to people on earth. Old-growth forests are valuable, the value of a particular tree species varies with geography, Old-growth forests are often biologically diverse, and home to many rare species, threatened species, endangered species of plants and vulnerable animals. As we watch and protect our forests we can not ignore the benefits of our old trees. General Sherman was worth protecting and beyond value we can assign. In the U.S. there is a rule protecting trees over 21 inches in diameter in six national forests where most American old growth trees exist.