Tallest tree in Amazon rainforest reached by researchers after three years and four failed attempts
Scientists have visited the tallest tree ever found in the Amazon rainforest after three years of planning, five expeditions and an arduous two-week trek through dense jungle.
- The tree is the tallest in the Amazon rainforest at 88.5 meters
- Researchers traveled 250 kilometers by boat and 20 km on foot to reach it
- The tree is at least 400 to 600 years old, an expert says
The giant tree, which juts out high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil, is an Angelim vermelho measuring 88.5 meters tall and with a circumference of 9.9 meters.
The tree, known by the scientific name: Dinizia excelsais the largest ever identified in the Amazon, according to scientists.
Researchers first spotted it in satellite images in 2019 as part of a 3D mapping project.
A team of academics, environmentalists and local guides tried to reach it later that year.
But after a 10-day trek through difficult terrain, exhausted, low on supplies and with a team member falling ill, they had to turn back.
Three more expeditions to the reserve’s remote Jari Valley region, which sits at the border between the states of Amapa and Para, reached several other gigantic trees, including the tallest Brazil nut tree ever recorded in the Amazon at 66 meters.
But the: Angelim vermelho remained elusive until the expedition from September 12-25, when researchers traveled 250 kilometers by boat up rivers with treacherous rapids, and then 20 km on foot across mountainous jungle terrain to reach it.
One person on the 19-member expedition was bitten by what the team doctor believed was a poisonous spider.
But forest engineer Diego Armando Silva, who helped organize the trip, said it was worth it.
“It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine,” he said.
“You’re in the middle of this forest where mankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature.”
After camping under the tree, the group collected leaves, soil and other samples, which will now be analyzed to study how old the tree is.
Mr. Silva estimates it is at least 400 to 600 years old
The experts will also look to understand why the region has so many giant trees, and how much carbon they store.
Around half of the weight of the region’s giant trees is carbon absorbed from the atmosphere, which is fundamental in helping curb climate change, Mr. Silva said.
But despite its remoteness, the region’s giants are under threat.
Over the past three years, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent from the previous decade.
Jakeline Pereira, who is a member of the environmental group Imazon said Angelim vermelho wood was prized by loggers, and the Iratapuru Reserve was being invaded by illegal gold miners infamous for bringing ecological destruction.
“We were so thrilled to make this find,” she said.
“It’s super important at a time when the Amazon is facing such frightening levels of deforestation.”