Researchers reach the tallest tree in the Amazon

(ORDO NEWS) — After three years of planning, five expeditions and a two-week trek through dense jungle, scientists have arrived at the tallest tree ever found in the Amazon rainforest, a towering specimen the size of a 25-story building.

The giant tree, whose top rises above the canopy of the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil, is angelim vermelho (scientific name: Dinizia excelsa), 88.5 meters high and 9.9 meters wide. Scientists say it is the largest ever discovered in the Amazon.

Researchers first spotted the huge tree in satellite imagery in 2019 as part of a 3D mapping project. In the same year, a group of scientists, ecologists and local guides organized an expedition to get to it.

But after 10 days of marching through difficult terrain, exhausted, short of supplies, and with a sick team member, they had to turn back.

Three more expeditions to the remote region of the Yari Valley Reserve, which lies on the border between the states of Amapa and Para, reached several other giant trees, including the tallest Brazil nut tree ever recorded in the Amazon – 66 meters.

But the huge angelim vermelho remained elusive until the September 12-25 expedition, when the explorers traveled 250 kilometers by boat on rivers with treacherous rapids, plus another 20 kilometers on foot through mountainous jungle terrain to reach it.

The top of this giant tree rises above the canopy of the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil.

Camping under a massive tree, the group collected leaves, soil and other samples that will now be analyzed to study questions including how old the tree is – at least 400 to 600 years old, engineer Diego Silva estimates – why there are so many giant trees in the region and how much carbon they store.

About half the weight of the region’s giant trees is carbon sequestered from the atmosphere, Silva said, which is fundamental to curbing climate change.

But, despite the remoteness, the giants of the region are under threat. The timber of Angelim vermelho is prized by loggers, and the Iratapura nature reserve is being invaded by illegal gold miners notorious for causing environmental damage.

It is worth noting that the Amazon has been facing some very frightening levels of deforestation lately. Over the past three years, the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent compared to the previous decade.

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