Amid California’s historic drought, ancient sequoias show signs of stress.

California’s giant trees are showing unprecedented die-back, and land managers who are already battling drought, warming and fire are racing to save them.

seqLos Padres National Forest firefighters watch a controlled burn on the so-called “rough fire” in the Sequoia National Forest in California. New research indicates the drought is hitting these ancient trees particularly hard. Photograph: Max Whittaker/Reuters.

Last September, US Geological Survey ecologist Nate Stephenson hiked into Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest to look for dying seedlings. California was suffering through its third year of severe drought, and trees were dying in the park in greater numbers than usual. The roadside leading up to Giant Forest was pin cushioned with trees faded brown – dead oaks, sugar pine, fir, incense cedar. But the forest’s namesake trees, which are among the world’s oldest and largest, were faring better. They’re tough – they have to be to live for thousands of years – and tend to grow in the wettest parts of the landscape.

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