JUL 25, 2016 3:56 PM PDT

The Tree Angels


The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA) has a common mission: to curb climate change. But with it, they have an uncommon ecotechnology for achieving their mission: this nonprofit organization is combining genetics with restoration ecology to plant clones of old-growth forest trees that have the ability to sequester huge amounts of carbon in order to slow climate change.
 
Photo: AATA
 
According to their website, they have a three-pronged idea: propagate, reforest, and archive.  With the first part, they aim to propagate the world’s most important old growth trees before they are gone. This literally looks like scientists climbing up trees big and small, sometimes roped into harnesses, and taking clippings of buds, leaves, and bark to obtain the genetics of individual trees. The scientists are selecting trees that have very specific purposes, such as longevity, survivability, and their natural abilities to benefit and repair the environment.  Giant sequoias, for example, are able to hold large quantities of carbon because of their immense height and seemingly endless life spans (up to 3,000 through wildfires, droughts, and disease). Black willows, another species that Archangel is collecting, are known for their water-filtering properties. The nonprofit says it has already cloned 170 different species and has developed a micro-propagation system for replicating old growth genetics that can be shared with partner facilities in other countries to produce literally millions of champion trees for reforestation globally.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, an author, biochemist, botanist, and science advisor to to Archangel says that 40% of the pills in the average person’s medicine cabinet comes from trees. Humans are really just beginning to Understand the science behind what trees do and can do. Beresford- Kroeger explains, “The production of nuts, of foods, the looking after of waters, of the aquifers, the great oceans, the aerosols in the atmosphere, the oxygenation in the atmosphere - all is done by trees.”
 
Photo: AATA

The second step: reforest the Earth with the offspring of these trees. The intention is “to provide the myriad of beneficial ecosystem services essential for all life forms to thrive including releasing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, providing beneficial aerosols and medicines: essentially a global warming solution.” AATA has now demonstrated proven success to reforest with the world’s first “super grove” of cloned coast redwoods and giant sequoias in Oregon. Currently, the organization has planted over 300,000 trees around the world, for purposes ranging from phytoremediation, carbon-stacking to fight climate change and erosion control to runoff management, watershed enhancement, and wildlife habitat.

And finally, step three: Archive the genetics of ancient trees in living libraries around the world for the future. Archangel’s goal to create living libraries that hold the genetics of old-growth trees takes the best of the best and  the most ancient species that have clearly figured out how to survive. The intention is to build a genetic safety net for future generations using the clones of these “champion” parent trees.

To use Executive Director and Board Chairman Jared Milarch’s words: “We’re building an arc - or an archive” as a precautionary means for the unknown future.
 


Sources: Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, The Associated Press
About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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