It’s not every year that firefighters wrap the world’s largest living tree in an oversized aluminum blanket. But there they were this fall, in California’s Sequoia National Park, covering the 36-foot-wide base of the tree known as General Sherman to protect it from the state’s devastating fires.
Images of the wrapped giant seem to symbolize the world’s race to protect forests in the face of everything from extreme heat to a booming beef industry. Many trees burned this year across the West Coast and Canada, and others were deliberately cut down.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest reached its highest level in more than 15 years. And the consequence of losing all of those trees became clearer than ever: A study published in July found that parts of the Amazon now emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb, contributing to rapid global warming.
But there was plenty of hope, too. General Sherman survived, for one. And scientists discovered a handful of new forest-dwelling species, including what’s likely the world’s smallest reptile.
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