Trees cloned from ancient redwood DNA could help combat climate change, according to arborists from a nonprofit group.
An environmental organization called Archangel Ancient Tree Archive planted a “super grove” of 75 redwood saplings in San Francisco’s Presidio park on Dec. 14. Saplings from the project are also developing in groves in Canada, England, France, New Zealand and Australia, Quartz reported.
If the trees grow as planned, each mature redwood could pull as much as 250 tons of carbon dioxide from the air, according to the group.
“These trees have the capacity to fight climate change and revitalize forests and our ecology in a way we haven’t seen before,” said David Milarch, co-founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.
Milarch said the saplings came from five ancient stumps in Northern California estimated to be up to 3,000 years old. After realizing the stumps were still alive he set out to clone them, something previously thought to be impossible.
“It’s as if the dinosaurs were being brought back to life,” Milarch told Quartz.
The redwoods are cloned from trees that were once up to 400 feet tall and 35 feet in diameter. They could grow to become the world’s most massive trees, surpassing the current largest living tree, a giant sequoia in California’s Sequoia National Park. The ancient redwoods also have extremely strong immune systems, serve healthy functions like filtering water and soil, and are resistant to wildfires, droughts and pests.
“These saplings have extraordinary potential to purify our air, water, and soil for generations to come,” Milarch said.
After collecting material from the stump, saplings take about 2.5 years to grow large enough to plant, the nonprofit explained. In their natural state, redwoods will self-clone in a circle 20 feet around the host tree called a “fairy ring.” The trees form these circles decades before they die naturally.
“We hope this ‘super grove,’ which has the capability to become an eternal forest, is allowed to grow unmolested by manmade or natural disasters and thus propagate forever,” Milarch said.
Carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, according to studies from the Global Carbon Project released last month. During that same time, Earth warmed on average about two-thirds of a degree, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration