The coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is a long-living tree native to California. Each mature tree contains an incredible amount of durable and splittable softwood, so nearly all were cut down between 1840 and 1970. Old-growth redwood trees are now a delicately preserved rarity, sometimes adorned with sensors or kept secret. The Santa Cruz County History Journal produced a wonderful volume of scholarly monographs covering the exploitation and preservation efforts.

Was any other population of long-living plants so reduced by harvesting? Did it also see intensive conservation efforts afterwards?


In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Jared Diamond covers a number of cultures that collapsed due to environmental over-exploitation.

I don't have my copy handy but if I recall correctly he attributed the collapse of Easter Island to the cutting of native palm trees.

He also contrasted the relative prosperity of The Dominican Republic to the poverty of Haiti as partly owing to forest management policies.

It's not in the book but I think I similar argument could be made about St Croix (US virgin islands) where they cut all the trees to clear the land for sugar production. After the abolition of slavery sugar production became unprofitable and the island became almost uninhabited. (Am having a hard time finding a source for this as all my searches return touristy results, but I read it when I was on the island).

  • It also covers Easter Island and the felling of all the trees on the island. – EvanM Apr 17 '17 at 17:46
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    I believe Mr. Diamond was referring to Easter Island's extinct Paschalococos, which at the time was the world's largest Palm tree species. There were several other trees there that appear to have gone extinct as well though. – T.E.D. Apr 17 '17 at 18:49
  • @T.E.D. thanks have added link to species as suggested. – AllInOne Apr 17 '17 at 18:52
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    I think the question is about nearly extinct species (and their conservation, optionally), not about total extinctions. – kubanczyk Apr 18 '17 at 12:08

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