A Chilean scientist believes he has discovered something unbelievable in a natural park in southern Chile: The park may house the oldest tree in the world. After a new study revealed that a Patagonian cypress known as ‘Alerce milenario’ could be over 5,000 years old.
What may be the oldest living tree in the world, surpassing the current record holder by more than 600 years, reports the Guardianis that cypress. A new study by Dr. Jonathan Barichivich, a Chilean researcher at the Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l’environnement in Paris points to this incredible conclusion.
A trunk 4 meters wide
To reach his conclusions, Barichivich used a combination of computer models and traditional methods to calculate the age of trees, in addition to the “Millennium Larch”. According to this method, the tree would be 5,484 years old.
The estimated age would exceed the current record holder, a 4,853-year-old California Bristlecone pine known as Methuselah. The scientist was unable to determine an exact age based on the tree ring method due to the huge trunk of this specimen. Typically, a 1 meter (1.09 yard) wooden cylinder is extracted to count tree rings, but the trunk of the milenario Alerce is 4 meters in diameter.
Maisa Rojas, who became Chile’s environment minister in March and is also a member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, praised the news as a “wonderful scientific discovery”. Known in Spanish as Alerce, the Patagonian cypress, Fitzroya cupressoides, is a conifer native to Chile and Argentina that belongs to the same family as the giant sequoias. It grows incredibly slowly and can reach heights of up to 45 meters.
The tree towers over a cool, damp valley in Alerce Costero National Park, its twisted crevices harboring mosses, lichens and other plants. According to Jonathan Barichovich, the millennial Alerce has become a tourist attraction for the park. It is very vulnerable: only 28% of the tree is alive.
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Logging threatens native forests in Chile
Unfortunately, the many visitors who come to admire the milenario Alerce are actively damaging the last living parts of the tree. For many this tree is like a member of the family. Seeing him like this breaks the hearts of many, it’s like seeing a caged lion in a zoo.
Namely: the survival of the tree is also threatened by climate change that is causing widespread drought in the region. Timber plantations cover more than 2.3 million hectares in southern Chile, according to the country’s forestry institute, and pulp production is an important industry.
Non-native pine and eucalyptus plantations, which consume a lot of water, nevertheless represent 93% of this total area, threatening Chile’s native species. In conclusion, between 1973 and 2011, more than 780,000 hectares of native forests were lost in Chile. The forest commission estimates that over the past two decades, between 60,000 and 70,000 hectares of native forest have been destroyed each year.
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