The studysaid the 2,624-year-old tree indicates that bald cypress comes in fifth on the worldwide list of tree species with the oldest individual, sexually reproducing, non-clonal trees. Researchers, taking tiny core samples that don't risk the life of the trees, knew that numerous specimens in the area were well over 1,000 years old based on previous research.
University of Arkansas' Dr. David Stahle, distinguished professional and world-renowned dendrochronologist, revealed his research Thursday, which dates one bald cypress on The Nature Conservancy's Bladen County property back to 605 B.C.
Along the Black River in North Carolina, bald cypress trees have been quietly growing for millennia.
Using a sampling tool known as an increment borer that does no lasting harm to the trees, the researchers can take a core sample that allows them to count the tree's rings - the ones made by annual growth layers.
"It is exceedingly unusual to see an old-growth stand of trees along the whole length of a river like this", Stahle noted. The trees, which are located along the Black River in North Carolina, help provide scientists with new data on climate conditions in ancient times. "Way less than 1 percent of the original virgin bald cypress forests have survived". The most established trees in the preserve expand the paleoclimate record in the southeast United States by 900 years and show proof of dry seasons and flooding amid during and pre-pilgrim times that surpass any measured in modern times.
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Living trees over 2,000-years-old are extremely rare worldwide, the researchers say.
The researchers hope that the latest findings will boost conservation efforts in the area, which could help to mitigate some of the threats that the ancient wetland forest is facing. The private group is known for its land-conservation efforts.
While numerous ancient trees mentioned in the study are protected courtesy of The Nature Conservancy, some of the trees located elsewhere on the Black River continue to be threatened by logging and biomass farming operations. Not only is the area an important ecosystem, but it has also become a source of inspiration. Without permanent protection, Stahle said, the primeval trees "could become garden mulch". These trees were located in a part of the wetland forest the researchers have not visited before.
"The area of old growth bald cypress was 10 times larger than I realized", Stahle said. These samples can be complicated by core rot, resulting in trees that are hollow in the middle, so the team selected trees that are solid all the way through.
The species is however under threat from illegal logging as well as water pollution, and rising sea levels as a result of climate change, scientists warned.
"The discovery of the oldest known living trees in eastern North America, which are in fact some of the oldest living trees on earth, provides powerful incentive for private, state, and federal conservation of this remarkable waterway", the authors concluded.
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