2 minute read

Sequoia

Economic Importance

The coast redwood has an extremely durable wood, and it is highly resistant to decay caused by fungi. The heartwood is an attractive reddish color, while the outer sapwood is paler. The grain of redwood lumber is long and straight, and the wood is strong, although rather soft. Redwood trees are harvested and used to make durable posts, poles, and pilings, and are manufactured into value-added products such as structural lumber, outdoor siding, indoor finishing, furniture and cabinets, and sometimes into shakes, a type of roofing shingle made by splitting rather than sawing blocks of wood.

Because of its great usefulness and value, the coast redwood has been harvested rather intensively. If the logged site and regeneration are appropriately managed after the harvesting of redwoods, it will regenerate rather well to this species. Consequently, there is little risk of the commercial extinction of this valuable natural resource. However, few natural stands of the coast redwood have survived the onslaught of commercial exploitation, so its distinctive old-growth ecosystem is at great risk of ecological extinction. Natural, self-organizing, old-growth redwood forests can only be preserved, and this must be done in rather large ecological reserves, such as parks, if this ecosystem is to be sustained over the longer term.

Compared with the coast redwood, the giant redwood is of much less commercial importance and is relatively little used. Most of the best surviving old-growth groves of this species are protected from exploitation in National Parks and other types of ecological reserves. However, there is increasing interest in developing commercial stands of the giant redwood elsewhere within its natural range, while continuing to protect the surviving old-growth stands.

Both species of sequoias are sometimes grown as ornamental trees in warm, moist, temperate climates outside of their natural range. Sequoias have been especially popular in horticulture in parts of England.


Resources

Books

Weatherspoon, C.P., Y.R. Iwamoto, and D.D. Douglas. eds. Management of Giant Sequoia. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1985.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Commercial extinction

—A situation in which it is no longer economically profitable to continue to exploit a depleted natural resource. The resource could be a particular species or an entire ecosystem, such as a type of old-growth forest.

Ecological (or biological) extinction

—A representative of a distinct ecosystem or living individuals of a particular species (or another biological taxon) that no longer occurs anywhere on Earth.

Prescribed burn

—The controlled burning of vegetation as a management practice to achieve some ecological benefit.

Sprout

—Non-sexual, vegetative propagation or regeneration of a tree. Sprouts may issue from a stump, roots, or a stem.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Semiotics to SmeltingSequoia - Biology And Ecology Of Sequoias, Economic Importance