Fern Watch

Why study ferns?  In 2008, I discovered that the height of the most common plant in the coast redwood forest is affected by how much rain and fog fall among the coast redwoods. In wetter forests, like the temperate rainforests of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties,Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum), grows in patches so tall and thick on the forest floor that the ferns are hard to walk through. In drier forests, like the coast redwood forests of Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, sword ferns grow more sparsely and the fronds on these ferns are shorter. In dry years, sword ferns lose many of their fronds and show signs of stress before other species — like the redwoods themselves — do. For this reason, sword fern is an important indicator of climate change and can help detect drought in the redwood forest to identify areas of climate refuge as the environment continues to change

With help of volunteers, we track how climate shapes Western sword fern every year in these 11 forests.
With help of volunteers, we track how climate shapes Western sword fern every year in these 11 forests.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s