Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve photo by Ken Nitz.Old growth forests are complex ecosystems that have survived for millennia, and can teach us a lot about living with wildfire and climate change. Scientists studying the remaining old growth along the West Coast have found that diversity of age, species, size, and genetics of trees are key to forest health and survival. These mature forests are also spatially diverse, with trees standing both together and individually, interspersed with fallen logs and natural openings where sunlight reaches the forest floor.

The Nature Conservancy is conducting a long-term experiment in Washington State to learn if forestry practices like limited selective thinning can beneficially accelerate the transformation of logged forests back to old growth conditions. Second-growth and even younger forests, like those typically acquired by Midpen, are denser and more uniform in age. This is particularly the case for coast redwoods on Midpen lands that have regrown over the last century after intense logging and fire suppression. Redwoods often sprout multiple new trees from the roots of a single cut stump, resulting in tight groves known as fairy rings. Scientists continue providing new insights about how to best steward the forests in our care.

We know that large and healthy trees are more likely to survive wildfire, that forest openings slow fire and nurture seedlings, and less-dense understories reduce fire intensity. We also know that forests are one of the best tools we have for climate change resilience. Redwoods capture and store more carbon per acre than any other tree or plant.

Midpen recently assessed the 63,000 total acres of land we steward and found that it permanently stores the equivalent of 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. In addition, the 45,500 acres of forest on Midpen lands remove an additional 61,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. To put that in perspective, the stored carbon is roughly equivalent to avoiding the emissions of 5 million cars driven for one year, while the carbon annually sequestered by forests is roughly equivalent to removing the emissions of an additional 13,000 cars.

These preserved forests are not only actively cleaning the air and storing carbon, they’re also providing wildlife habitat, water filtration and beautiful places for people to enjoy. We want to help them continue providing these life-giving benefits for millennia to come, even if it takes decades or centuries to regain their more diverse and resilient old growth characteristics.