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By Steve Williams
An estate in Ireland has revealed plans to create a redwood grove that will be the largest of its kind outside California. The initiative serves as a testament both to Ireland's heritage and its commitment to fighting global warming.
The initiative, Giants Grove, is spearheaded by the seventh Earl of Rosse, Brendan Parsons and the environmental organization Crann, which promotes the preservation of trees, hedgerows and woodlands throughout Ireland.
The Earl has designated land on the grounds of the Birr Castle Gardens in Offlay to house around 2,000 redwoods, making it the biggest forest outside of California.
What's more, this would be a historic homecoming for redwoods. The trees were once abundant in Ireland but were largely wiped out following the last Ice Age.
Lord Rosse explained:
"Our grandchildren, their grandchildren, Birr, Ireland and the world will benefit from this magnificent forest grove. These will be the biggest trees in Ireland and the largest collection outside of California. By investing in this project with us, the sponsors will have the opportunity to make a personal impact on Ireland's environment and world biodiversity conservation."
As stated above, the project will be supported by the estate and other groups, but it aims for public funding. Individuals will be able to sponsor an area within the giant redwood plantation, ensuring the site and the redwoods themselves will last for future generations.
The notion isn't just to return a piece of Ireland's lost heritage, though. Giants Grove will attempt to help redwood forests and other ecosystems unique to Ireland survive.
The trees face significant pressures, including the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures and a resulting lack of coastal fog means that California's plantation has measurably declined in health. Other stress factors like land clearing and human encroachment mean that tree health isn't as robust as environmentalists would like it to be.
What's more, recent studies suggest that trees like the giant redwoods are crucial for their ability to fight climate change itself. Thus, ensuring their survival helps to ensure ours.
This project will also work to maintain Ireland's forest cover—and that's got an environmental importance of its own.
This is a trial in future-proofing, as Ireland is predicted to warm up significantly due to climate change. By planting redwoods now, the country could be taking steps to transition into that warmer climate with habitable forests already in the making.
It's a smart idea—and one that conservation groups believe may be the key to preserving future biodiversity.
So what's next?
The aim of the project is to deploy the redwoods in two phases. Phase one is slated to begin this autumn, while the second phase will occur in the spring of 2017. Both phases will include planting the giant coastal redwoods to create an inner copse, which will then be surrounded by the more robust giant mountain redwoods. Some native trees will also be included, such as holly trees, to encourage biodiversity and to provide interest for forest visitors.
To be sure, this project alone cannot ensure the survival of the redwoods or keep Ireland's biodiversity intact. However, the project has been greeted warmly by environmentalists who view this as an example in maintaining biodiversity for other nations. While climate change will mean we need to approach conservation differently, there are transition strategies that can enrich environments.
The Giants Grove project, then, is an exciting seed of an idea for long-term biodiversity conservation.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.