Science & Nature
Offshore and beneath Prairie Creek’s forest lies a mixture of twisted rocks. Over 20 million years, more than 8 miles of sandstone, shale, serpentine, chert, and greenstone (a blend called Franciscan Complex) have built up in layers from the original ocean floor. These sediment layers resulted from repeated tectonic plate collisions. Three tectonic plates—North American, Pacific, and Gorda—all meet offshore at the Mendocino Triple Junction south of Eureka. Particles from each plate collision float along the ocean floor until they are deposited. Sea stacks—rock towers that have broken off from the main land mass—protrude from offshore waters.
For more information about geology in Redwood National and State Parks, go to the National Park Service website.
Scientists studying the effects of rising global temperatures have found that the size and longevity of redwoods helps them store more climate-altering carbon dioxide than other plants. Even old redwoods continue to grow, each year adding more carbon-filled wood than smaller, younger trees. After redwoods die, their rot-resistant wood holds onto that carbon for a long time. See Save the Redwoods League's Understanding Climate Change.
For more information about nature and science in Redwood National and State Parks, go to the National Park Service website.
Research in the Park
With the help of Save the Redwoods League and other funding partners, Prairie Creek and other redwood state parks have become living laboratories for scientists. Some recent findings from Prairie Creek include:
- Mats of soil up to 265 feet high in old-growth redwood forests provide ideal habitat for a whole ecosystem of plant and animal species. Such ecosystems don’t exist on logged land.
- They can live on the ground as well in old-growth redwoods. So why would a wandering salamander bother to climb a tree? For the quality of the food apparently. Springtails are more abundant up in the heights—and they’re softer and bulkier than the salamander’s other favorite food: mites.
- Will the fungi and bacteria that live in Prairie Creek soil be able to adapt to climate change? Nobody knows for sure, but it was encouraging to find that when soil from Prairie Creek was transplanted to dryer, more southerly parks, its microbe mix gradually changed to mimic local conditions.
To find out more about research in California's redwood parks, go to Redwood Research.