Sometimes even the largest natural wonders can remain hidden from human view for centuries. The Amazon is a dense place, full of life with new species of flora and fauna being discovered every other day. Now, using the same technology that takes driverless cars from A to B, we – led by Eric Gorgens and Diego Armando da Silva, and along with colleagues from Brazil, Swansea, Oxford and Cambridge – have discovered the tallest tree in the rainforest.
At 88m tall, it dwarfs the previous record holders by almost 30m. And it’s not alone either. The Guiana Shield of north-eastern Amazonia, which accounts for nearly 9% of the world’s remaining tropical forests, may contain lots of these gigantic trees. With each one able to hold as much carbon as an average hectare of rainforest, our discovery means that the vast jungle may be a greater carbon sink than previously thought.
We didn’t just stumble upon these trees while strolling in the forest. Between 2016 and 2018, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research coordinated a project to laser scan large swaths of the Amazon. This project scanned 850 randomly distributed patches of forest, each 12km long and 300m wide. Seven of these patches contained evidence of trees taller than 80m. Most of them were located in the area surrounding the Jari river, a northern tributary of the Amazon. MORE
Header image: The Amazon’s record-breaking tree. Credit: Tobias Jackson.