Redwood trees are the gentle giants of the California coast. They are the tallest trees in the world, looming above coastal landscapes from south of Big Sur in Central California up to Southern Oregon. These trees only grow where there is fog, which they collect with hundreds of millions of tiny leaves. Only 5% of the original redwood forests remain after extensive logging in the mid-1800s. Redwoods exist in no other place on Earth.
There’s much we don’t know about redwoods. One of the remaining questions is one of the most basic: how do redwoods photosynthesize while enshrouded in fog? Photosynthesis requires water, carbon dioxide, and light. While redwoods have plenty of water, they are limited by how much light can penetrate their tall canopies. How such a giant still makes its food in the dim understory is still a mystery.
To answer this question, a new scientific team is exploring these forests with state-of-the-science sensors and computer simulations. Named 'The Summen Project', after the Ohlone word for redwood, this study seeks to answer fundamental scientific questions and apply new knowledge to sustainable forest management.