Exploring the Eel River Valley

The Redwood Forest and the Role of Water

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The only way we can pump water to as great a height as the top of a redwood tree is to use multiple booster pumps at different levels. So how can the tree do it? There is a constant upward flow of water from the roots to the topmost part of the tree. Scientists have discovered that water molecules interact with the sides of the capillary tubes, that's the plumbing that carries the water and nutrients up into the tree. This interaction creates a bond which "drags" the water column up with it. At the same time the water evaporating from the leaf creates a vacuum which pulls the water up as well. At some point the attraction and the tree's "suction" are not strong enough to maintain this column of water with the result that the tree has reached its maximum height.

Scientists and researchers estimate that a mature tree requires hundreds of gallons of water per day, and for this reason the roots need an ample supply of water. Redwood trees thrive in the river bottoms where they obviously have access to lots of ground water. But these giant trees also make their own rain, out of fog! The moisture in the air condenses between the leaves and eventually drips down to the root zone. It is believed that one of the reasons redwood trees have adapted to their great height is because the higher the tree, the more moisture it can provide for itself. And the reason they thrive along Northern California's Pacific Coast is because this area often gets a daily fog.

The Redwood Root System

You would think that a 350-foot-tall tree would need deep roots, but that's not the case at all with the Sequoia sempervirens. Redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep. But they make up for it in width, sometimes extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. They thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together. This gives them tremendous strength against the forces of nature. This way they can withstand high winds and raging floods.         Continued.

NEXT: How Can a Redwood Tree Get So Tall?


The Redwoods


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