Giant sentinels and the climate crisis

›› Jan Firstbrook

What is the fastest growing tree in the world and the best at carbon capture? These trees live among us in Fernwood. Though not native to Canada, they thrive in our city due to the Mediterranean climate. These amazing trees, Sequoias, are native to California but were planted here 100 to 150 years ago. They are huge—a Giant Sequoia on Pandora near Fernwood measures ­approximately 5.4m around and 1.7m in diameter and is around 100 years old.

Other majestic Sequoias are hidden in our neighbourhood—on Balmoral near Chambers, on Yates across from the Shell, at Stadacona Park and further afield at the Art Gallery, Moss and Rockland and Richardson, at Beacon Hill park, and at Government House.

Sequoias are the fastest growing tree and can grow up to 300 feet tall, 36 feet wide and live for 3,500 years. They never stop growing and that is why they are the best at carbon capture. A group in the UK, One Life, One Tree is planting Sequoias to capture the average life time carbon ­footprint of a person living in the UK which is 530 tonnes. These trees are planted in wide open spaces along with native trees to provide biodiversity. Sequoias in Victoria were planted when there was space and now are needing ­protection due to development pressures.

The benefits of these giants are many, especially during the hot dry spell this June. The intense heat was reduced by the cooling impact of trees as they released moisture from their leaves and provided wonderful shade. The City of ­Vancouver noted a 20°C difference between tree shaded and unshaded parts of the city ­during the heat dome.

These magnificent trees help ­mitigate the impacts of climate change, improve our mental and physical well being, and increase the livability of our ­neighbourhood.