The coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) of California have several unique characteristics that influence interactions between vegetation and geomorphic processes. Case studies, using a combination of in-channel wood surveys and an air photo inventory of landslides, illustrate current conditions in a redwood-dominated watershed undergoing restoration work, and the influence of wood loading and landslides on the carbon budget. Redwood trees have extremely large biomass (trunk wood volumes of 700 to 1000 m3) and are very decay-resistant; consequently, they have a large and persistent influence on in-channel wood loading. Large wood surveys indicate high wood loading in streams in uncut forests (0.3-0.5 m3/m2 of channel), but also show that high wood loading can persist in logged basin with unlogged riparian buffers because of the slow decay of fallen redwoods. Through a watershed restoration program, Redwood National Park increases in-channel wood loading in low-order streams, but the effectiveness of this technique has not yet been tested by a large flood. Another unique characteristic of redwood is its ability to resprout from basal burls after cutting, so that root strength may not decline as sharply following logging as in other types of forests. An air photo inventory of landslides following a large storm in 1997 indicated: 1) that in the Redwood Creek watershed the volume of material displaced by landslides in harvested areas was not related to the time elapsed since logging, suggesting that the loss of root strength was not a decisive factor in landslide initiation, 2) landslide production on decommissioned logging roads was half that of untreated roads, and 3) landslides removed an estimated 28 Mg of organic carbon/km2 from hillslopes. The carbon budget of a redwood-dominated catchment is dominated by the vegetative component, but is also influenced by the extent of mass movement, erosion control work, and in-channel storage of wood.
Additional publication details
Redwoods, restoration, and implications for carbon budgets