Tallest tree in the Amazon rainforest identified by scientists stands at 290-feet – almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty

  • The giant tree is part of a group that was discovered using laser scans 
  • British and Brazilian scientists entered the rainforest to get exact measurements 
  • The Dinizia excelsa species beats the Amazon’s previous record holder by 98ft
  • There may be even taller trees in remote areas of the Amazon, the team says

An expedition has uncovered the tallest known tree in the Amazon rainforest – taller than Nelson’s Column and nearly as tall as The Statue of Liberty.

The new discovery scales 290.3 feet and was recorded by a team of Brazilian and British researchers on an 11-day expedition in the Amazon.

The tree stands almost 100 feet taller than the previous record holder and is part of a group of trees that may be more than 400 years old.

The trees are growing in a remote region of Northern Brazil, far from human activity, near the Jari river – a northern tributary of the Amazon.

Trees of this size can store as much as 40 tonnes of carbon each, making them a precious resource in the battle against human emissions. 

The Amazon’s tallest known tree measures 290.3 feet – just 10 feet shy of the 300-foot Statue of Liberty

‘We found 15 trees over 70 metres (230ft) and a few that were over 80 metres (262ft) – the tallest one was previously 60 metres (197ft) so that’s a huge leap,’ said University of Cambridge plant scientist Toby Jackson, who was part of the expedition.

‘It’s a really exciting result. I think it’s a pretty significant discovery for conservation science.’

The Amazon rainforest spans an area of 5.5 million square kilometres, but because this particular area is quite well protected, there may be even taller trees that researchers don’t yet know about. 

A group of big trees had already been identified after a section of forest was scanned from a plane using LIDAR – a method of remote sensing using lasers that is also used in driverless cars.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research used this technology to scan random patches of the rainforest.

Map of the researchers’ journey near the Jari river – a northern tributary of the Amazon. The red stars are the target sites for tree measurements, including Site 3, location of the new record-breaking tree

Expert climbers scaled to the top of multiple trees to dangle a rope from their very tips to measure each one’s height

The research group set off by boat from Laranjal do Jari in north-eastern Brazil

The expedition leader, Professor Eric Gorgens at the Federal University of the Jequitinhonha and Mucuri Valleys in Brazil, wanted to go to the Amazon to officially record it so that people would believe it, according to Mr Jackson. 

The area was so concealed that the team travelled by boat and had to navigate the Itacará waterfall and thick forest.

‘It was an 11-day expedition and it took us five days to get up the river and then we had to go on foot, it was quite hard to access it,’ Mr Jackson said. 

Once there, specialist climbers navigated to the top of every tree and dangled a rope to the bottom to precisely measure each one.

The record-breaking tree is part of group of trees of the same species, Dinizia excelsais, which is native to Brazil in non-flooded parts of the Amazon and is prized for its hardwood. 

‘It’s been an important timber species in the past because it grows quite fast, it grows quite tall, it’s quite widely distributed,’ Mr Jackson told MailOnline.  

The team scaled thick greenery and water rapids to reach the site of the Dinizia excelsa trees

‘The area is quite plant tolerant so there’s water and it’s just the right balance.

‘Some areas get flooded and the soil is of quite poor quality but there is no flood here.’

Trees help mitigate climate change by taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it.

Each Dinizia excelsais can store 40 tonnes of carbon – the same as between 300 and 500 smaller trees, while occupying the space of only 20. 

Protecting areas of the rainforest that are so densely packed with this species is crucial as a natural resource to help convert carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. 

‘Any one particular species across the Amazon is not of any greater importance just because of the diversity there,’ Mr Jackson told MailOnline. 

‘We do on hectare plots and sometimes you find 600 trees and 300 species within the same plot, which is ridiculous diversity. 

‘But it may be one of the most important species nonetheless.’ 

The new discovery is still some way off the tallest species in the world, the California redwood, which have measured up to 379.7 feet.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE WORLD’S MAJOR AIR POLLUTANTS?

According to the Environmental protection Agency, there are six major pollutants which can impact on human health and well-being. 

Particulate matter: Particulate matter is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.

These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.

Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.

Fine particles (2.5 parts per million)are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas. 

Carbon monoxide: Breathing air with a high concentration of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain.

At very high levels, which are possible indoors or in other enclosed environments, CO can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death.  

Nitrogen dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO

It forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.

Breathing air with a high concentration of NO can irritate airways in the human respiratory system. Such exposures over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing).   

Sulfur dioxide: The largest source of Sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.

Short-term exposures to SO can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult. Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO.

Ground-level Ozone: The ozone layer in the lower area of the lower portion of the stratosphere, approximately 12 to 19 miles above the surface of the planet (20 to 30 km). 

Although ozone protects us against UV radiation, when it is found at ground level it can cause health problems for vulnerable people who suffer from lung diseases such as asthma. 

It is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) – that are found in exhaust fumes – in the presence of sunlight.

Lead: Major sources of lead in the air are ore and metals processing and piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded aviation fuel. 

Other sources are waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers. The highest air concentrations of lead are usually found near lead smelters.

 Depending on the level of exposure, lead can adversely affect the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and developmental systems and the cardiovascular system.

Infants and young children are especially sensitive to even low levels of lead, which may contribute to behavioural problems, learning deficits and lowered IQ.

Source: EPA 

 

 

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