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Meet the scientists that are working to save California’s giant sequoias and redwoods

A team at Archangel Ancient Tree Archives collect samples from sequoias and redwoods, clone them, then replant them in places that need to be reforested.

MICHIGAN, USA — Giant sequoias and California redwoods are nature's skyscrapers. But the towering trees are dying in droves, as wildfires burn bigger, hotter and longer.

Now, what's growing in a greenhouse in northern Michigan could help save the species. 

"The real goal for me is to protect and propagate as many different species as we can," said Jared Milarch with the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. 

Milarch and the team at Archangel Ancient Tree Archives are in a race against climate change and the toll it's taking on ancient trees. They collect samples from sequoias and redwoods, clone them, then replant them in places that need to be reforested

The Castle Fire in 2020 ripped through the Southern Sierra Nevada and claimed an estimated 10% of the world's giant sequoias and one of the largest redwoods left in California called the Waterfall Tree.

"So, the Waterfall Tree is a great example of why we're in a hurry to do this. We collected genetics from that a few years ago. We actually were able to take some of those clones and give them back to the community there to replant," continued Milarch.

Just as importantly, they are archiving the tree's genetic material as insurance that they'll always be available to clone. David Milarch is Jared's dad and co-founder of the project. These trees are marvels, he says, because they grow 10 times faster than most others and capture massive amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. 

"They uptake CO2 10 times faster than any other species We need to remove the excess CO2 from the atmosphere, and these are the champions or the workhorses of doing just that," said David Milarch. 

Some of the newest sprouts here come from clippings of giant sequoia from, surprisingly, just 30 miles down the road in Manistee, Michigan. The tree has grown 116 feet tall in less than 75 years and is particularly promising because it's thrived much farther north than where most grow naturally.

The hope is these seedlings can be planted in colder places, turning these climate change champions loose where they've never been before.

"Even with this one tree that we have now make a change here and the cuttings from this tree, part of me and part of our legacy will be all around the world, all around the United States. I couldn't be happier," said Jim Cowan the President of Lake Bluff Farms.

A new age approach – using some of the world's oldest trees to fight climate change – one clone at a time.

Watch Related: Congress make efforts to save Giant Sequoias (Jul 18, 2022)

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