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  • Some people can't see the forest for the trees,

  • but before Stephen Sillett, no one could see or even imagine the forest in the trees.

  • Stephen was an explorer of new worlds from the start.

  • He spent his boyhood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

  • reading Tolkien and playing Dungeons and Dragons with his brother Scott.

  • But when the Sillett family visited their grandparent's cabin near Gettysburg,

  • their grandmother Helen Poe Sillett,

  • would take the boys into the nearby mountains and forests to bird-watch.

  • They called Grandma Sillett Poe,

  • and she taught the boys to identify songbirds, plants and even lichens,

  • creatures that often look like splotches of carpet glued to the shady sides of rocks and tree trunks.

  • Looking upwards, both boys found their callings.

  • Scott became a research scientist specializing in migratory birds.

  • Stephen was more interested in the trees.

  • The tangle of branches and leaves attracted his curiosity.

  • What could be hidden up there?

  • By the time Stephen was in college, that curiosity pulled him skyward

  • to the tallest trees on Earth: the ancient coast redwoods of Northern California.

  • Rising from trunks up to 20 feet in diameter,

  • redwoods can grow up to 380 feet, or 38 stories, over a 2,000 year lifetime.

  • But no one had thought to investigate the crowns of these natural skyscrapers.

  • Were there more than just branches up there?

  • Stephen decided to find out firsthand.

  • In 1987, Stephen, his brother Scott and his friend Marwood

  • drove from Reed College in Oregon

  • to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California.

  • Deep inside the park, Stephen picked the tallest redwood he could find.

  • Its lowest branches were almost 100 feet up,

  • far beyond his reach.

  • But he saw a younger, shorter redwood growing next to the target tree.

  • With a running start, he leapt and grabbed the lowest branch,

  • pulled himself up and scurried upwards.

  • He was free climbing without ropes or a harness,

  • one misstep meant death.

  • But up he went, and when he reached the peak,

  • he swayed and leapt across the gap of space onto a branch of the target tree

  • and into a world never seen before.

  • His buddy Marwood followed him up,

  • and the two young men free climbed high into the redwood's crown.

  • Stephen came across lichens like Grandma Poe had shown him as a boy.

  • He noticed that the higher he went, the thicker the branches were,

  • not the case with most trees.

  • He found moist mats of soil many inches thick,

  • made from fallen needles, bark, other plant debris and dust from the sky

  • piled on the tops of the large branches.

  • He even found reiterations:

  • new redwood tree trunks growing out from the main trunk.

  • The redwood had cloned itself.

  • When Stephen reached the pinnacle,

  • he rested on a platform of crisscrossing branches and needles.

  • Growing in the soil mat was a huckleberry bush with ripe berries!

  • He ate some and waited for his friend.

  • Stephen had discovered a new world hundreds of feet above the ground.

  • His climb led to more excursions, with safety equipment, thank goodness,

  • up other ancient redwoods as he mapped and measured the architecture

  • of branches and additional trunks in the canopy of an entire grove.

  • Stephen became an expert in the ecology of the tallest trees on Earth

  • and the rich diversity of life in their crowns, aerial ecosystems no one had imagined.

  • There are ferns, fungi and epiphytic trees normally found at ground level

  • like Douglas firs, hemlocks and tan oaks

  • whose roots had taken hold in the rich wet soil mats.

  • Invertebrates such as ants, bumblebees, mites, beetles, earthworms and aquatic crustacean copepods

  • make their homes alongside flowering plants like

  • rhododendrons, currant and elderberry bushes.

  • Ospreys, spotted owls, and jays search the canopy for food.

  • Even the marbled murrelet, a Pacific seabird,

  • flies many miles from the ocean to nest there.

  • Squirrels and voles peek out of penthouse burrows.

  • And the top predator? The mighty wandering salamander!

  • Sillett's research has changed how we think about tall trees,

  • and bolstered the case for their conservation,

  • not just as impressive individual organisms

  • but as homes to countless other species.

  • So when you look up into the branches and leaves of a tree,

  • ask, "What else is up there?"

  • A new world might be just out of reach. So leap for it.

Some people can't see the forest for the trees,

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B2 US TED-Ed stephen redwood tallest poe tree

【TED-Ed】What's hidden among the tallest trees on Earth? - Wendell Oshiro

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/01/25
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