Scientists finally reach the tallest tree in the Amazon Rainforest

Posted on 10 October 2022 By Olerato Ramafsi

Following three years of planning, five expeditions, and a two-week hike through the dense jungle, scientists have reached the tallest tree ever found in the Amazon Rainforest.

The giant tree, which sticks out high above the canopy in the Iratarapuru River Nature Reserve in Northern Brazil, is an Angelim Vermelho (Dinizia Excelsa) measuring 88.5 meters tall and 9.9 meters around – the biggest ever found in the Amazon according to scientists.

Researchers first spotted the enormous tree using satellite images in 2019 as part of a 3D mapping project.

A team of academics, environmentalists, and local guides undertook an expedition to try and reach it later that year. But after a 10-day hike through strenuous terrain, fatigued, low on supplies, and with a team member falling ill, they had to abandon the trip and turn back.

Three more expeditions to the reserve’s remote Jari Valley region, located on 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 standing 66 meters tall.

However, the enormous Angelim Vermelho remained elusive until the expedition that set out on 12 September, when researchers travelled 250 kilometres by boat up rivers with treacherous rapids, including another 20 kilometres on foot across mountainous jungle terrain to reach it.

The expedition wasn’t without setbacks as one member of the 19-member expedition was reportedly bitten by a poisonous spider. But it was all worth it, says forest engineer Diego Armando Silva of Amapa Federal University, who was one of the trip’s main organisers.

‘It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine,’ Silva told AFP. ‘You’re in the middle of this forest where humankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature.’

After camping under the massive tree, the group collected leaves, soil, and other samples, which will now be analyzed to study questions including how old the tree is – at least 400 to 600 years, Silva estimates – why the region has so many giant trees, and how much carbon they store.

The region’s giant trees weigh up to 400 000 tonnes, around half of which is carbon absorbed from the atmosphere – fundamental in helping curb climate change. Despite its remoteness, the region’s giant trees are under threat.

Angelim Vermelho wood is prized by loggers, and the Iratarapuru reserve is being invaded by illegal gold miners infamous for bringing ecological destruction, says Jakeline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon, which helped organise the expedition.

‘We were so thrilled to make this find,’ says Pereira. ‘It’s super important at a time when the Amazon is facing such frightening levels of deforestation.’

Over the past three years, the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent from the previous decade.

Take a look at the tree below.

Picture: Screenshot from Youtube

ALSO READ: Did you know? Trees talk to each other. Here’s how

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