The giant sequoia trees that grow in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains can only grow in certain type of environment. The sequoia trees need sunlight, water, and just the right kind of granite to grow. This new discovery sheds light onto the patchy growth of other trees in one of the worlds most active forests. Visitors to the western Sierra’s lower elevations find themselves unexpectedly stepping from a prolific redwood grove onto sun-lashed bedrock.
A long time ago, molten rock that formed the granite floors of the Sierra Nevada was the feeder system for a massive volcanic mountain chain similar to the Andes in South America. The granite’s chemical boundaries mark different plugs of magma that cooled underground. The cooled and hardened magma was brought to the surface by millions of years of erosion, along with the movement from the tectonic plates boundary between the North American and Pacific plates.
Jesse Hahm, a geologist from the University of Wyoming and the lead expert for the study says, “These trees have had thousands and thousands of years to colonize this elevation band in the western Sierra, and the fact they have not done so already suggests there’s something about the bedrock.” Until now scientists did not realize how much the granite rock controlled the growth of trees in the Sierra’s.
Subtle differences in geochemistry that arose more than 100 million years ago are now affecting life on the mountain range,” said Hahm.
This new discovery about the growth of sequoia trees doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone with a green thumb however, gardeners know that plants require the just the right amounts nutrients in the soil, just like nitrogen and phosphorus, to thrive. Hahm and his team of researchers deemed that temperature and precipitation are still important factors in growth patterns of the sequoia trees, but the pluton rich granite controls the growth pattern of trees in that area.