When you hear “rainforest” you probably think of a humid, tropical locale full of lush vegetation and exotic wildlife. Water plays an essential role in shaping the lives of the animals and plants in this ecosystem. The same can be said for the rainforest—the temperate rainforest—right here in our own backyard.
Unlike tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests experience larger seasonal fluctuations in light and weather, which means their inhabitants must adjust to changes in temperature and water levels. One of the tenets of our Heart of the Redwoods Campaign is to save the trees for the water. That’s where the redwoods of our temperate rainforests come into play—taking an active role in contributing to local water supplies, improving water quality and regulating temperatures.
Here’s how they work:
- Keeping Things Flowing. Summer months in redwood habitat tend to have fog in the morning that burns off into dry days. Redwoods are experts at capturing the moisture from that morning fog in their foliage and dripping it down to waterways below. With no other water sources available, this “rain” is critical for creeks and streams that provide water for humans and wildlife.
- Keeping Things Grounded. Redwoods have extensive lateral root systems that often intertwine with other redwood tree roots to provide even more stability. This is important for trees that grow hundreds of feet tall, but is also important for maintaining things on the ground. This root network holds soil and other plants in place and prevents erosion from washing dirt and surface debris into the water.
- Keeping Things Cool. The size of redwoods and their resulting canopy helps reduce water evaporation from the understory and holds down forest temperatures. This cooling effect includes the creeks and streams that are home to threatened species such as steelhead trout and Coho salmon. Fish eggs and young fish are sensitive to extreme temperatures, making redwood heat regulation another factor in their survival.
So the next time you need to get away from it all, take a trip to a local rainforest. In no time at all you can enjoy hiking in the understory, marvel at the ferns and fairy rings, and watch a clear creek bubble past the incredible redwood trees that help make life in these temperate rainforests possible.