In a remote valley in southern Chile, a lone Allerus tree stands above the canopy of an ancient forest.
Green shoots sprout from the crevices of thick, dark trunks that are densely packed like the pipes of a cathedral organ, and water flows from the bulbous knots of the forest down the lichen-striped bark along the forest floor. run down.
“It was like a green waterfall. There was a big presence in front of me. Gran Abueloor “great-grandfather”, the tree of childhood.
Barichivich grew up in Alerce Costello National Park, 500 miles (800 km) south of the capital, Santiago. It is home to hundreds of alerts, Fitzroya Cupresoida slow-growing conifer native to the cold and moist valleys of the southern Andes.
“I never thought about how old I was Gran Abuelo maybe,” he said. “I’m not really interested in records.” But Barichivich’s groundbreaking research shows that giant 100-foot (30-meter) trees may be the world’s oldest living trees.
In January 2020 he Gran Abuelo Together with his mentor and friend, dendrochronologist Antonio Lara, he took core samples from the trunk.
They were only able to reach 40% into the tree, as the center of the tree was likely rotten, making it impossible to achieve a complete core. Still, that sample yielded about 2,400 years of discoveries.
Without hesitation, Baryčić said, Gran Abuelo‘Sage. Taking the known age of other alerts in the forest and accounting for climate and natural variability, we adjusted the model to simulate a range of possible ages, producing a striking estimate of 5,484 years.
This makes it more than six centuries older than Methuselah, the eastern California bristlecone pine recognized as the world’s oldest non-clonal tree. Methuselah are plants that do not share a common root system. Some clone trees live longer, such as the Norwegian Old Cicco, which is thought to be 9,558 years old.
Barichivich thinks there’s an 80% chance the tree is over 5,000 years old, but some colleagues disdain the discovery. They argue that complete and countable ring cores are the only true way to determine age.
Climate scientists hope to publish the study early next year. He continues to improve his model, but shakes off the “colonialism” that exists in the field.
“Some of my colleagues were skeptical and I don’t understand why we disclosed our findings before formally releasing them,” he said. “But this is post-normal science. We have little time to act.” No, we cannot wait a year or two, it may already be too late.”
Barichivich believes that ancient trees could help experts understand how forests interact with climate.
” Gran Abuelo It’s a time capsule that’s not only old but also has a message for the future,” he said. “This tree alone has a record of 5,000 years of life for him, and we can see how ancient life reacted to the changes we made to the Earth.”
In January, Balicivic, who works at the Institute for Climate and Environmental Sciences and Environment in Paris, won a €1.5 million European Research Council start-up grant, which he describes as the “Holy Grail” for scientists.
He is embarking on a five-year project to assess the future capacity of forests to absorb carbon, and hopes to add tree-ring data from thousands of locations around the world to climate simulations for the first time.
More than one-third of the planet’s vegetated surface is covered by forests, which absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, but current models can only predict 20 or 30 years into the future.
By adding data on wood formation, the formation of wood, Barichivich believes it can provide 100-year projections of climate change and revolutionize our ability to understand and mitigate its impacts. .
“If tree rings were a book, for 40 years everyone would just look at the cover,” he said.
“Little by little, the trees are dying.”
In an office surrounded by varnished samples, fragile cores and wood shavings, Barycivic leader Antonio Lara, 66, reconstructs temperature, precipitation and watershed levels throughout history. has spent his career in
Lara, a professor in the Department of Forest Science and Natural Resources at Chile’s Austral University in the southern city of Valdivia, proves that alerts can absorb carbon from the atmosphere and trap it in standing dead trees for 1,500 to 2,000 years. We could… Buried Alert Trunks can hold carbon for over 4,000 years.
He also identified precise climate events by converting tree rings into numbers that could be read like barcodes. “My great-grandfather’s tree is a miracle for three reasons: it grew, it survived, and it was discovered by Jonathan’s grandfather,” Lara said.
In the mid-1940s, Baricivic’s grandfather, Anibal Henriques, came from the southern city of Lautaro to work for a forestry company that cuts down trees. Lahuanbecause Alert is known for his native language, the indigenous language Mapudungun.
He became the park’s first administrator, but before Chile made logging illegal in 1976, many of the giant alex trees fell victim to loggers.
During the 1700s and 1800s, locals used Allerce shingles as currency, and wood was commonly used in construction. The famous wooden church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Chiloe, is made of alert his trunk.
Henriquez happens to be Gran Abuelo On patrol in the early 1970s. He was initially reluctant to disclose his findings, but word soon spread and people began to arrive. Now, every summer he attracts more than 10,000 tourists to his small wooden viewing platform next to the tree.
Other alerts in the valley fell victim to loggers and forest fires, leaving gnarled trees standing alone. “Little by little, the trees are dying,” said Marcelo Delgado, his Barichivich cousin who works at the park as one of his five full-time rangers. “People jump off the platform to peel it off and take it as a keepsake.”
Stepping at the base of trees also damages the thin bark layer of the roots, affecting nutrient uptake. After 29 other trees were destroyed by tourists, the National Forestry Corporation, which manages Chile’s national parks, closed the trail indefinitely.
Barichivich, by showing that Gran Abuelo The oldest tree in the world, he could ring alarm bells about the urgency with which we must protect the natural world. I claim it’s my home.
When he was eight years old, his grandfather went missing during a routine snow patrol. His body was found two days later. Another uncle, who was also a park ranger, later died in the park.
“It’s like a family tradition,” Barichivich said. “The same fate awaits me as dying in the woods with my boots on. But first, I want to unravel the secret.”