Sunday, March 25, 2018

How Old Are the Trees in the Amazon Rain Forest?

Not long ago, a reader wrote: “There should be no trees in the Amazon basin older than the cataclysm,” referring to the fact that if the Amazon Basin had been submerged beneath the sea until the time of the crucifixion, then raised up to the surface as a result of the Andean Uplift, then the jungle, trees and rain forest would have begun after that time. 
   It certainly seemed like an intriguing idea—one we had not written about before. So we decided to look into it to see if trees in the Amazon were indeed younger than that period, or turned out to be older.
Bristlecone Pine, which are resilient to harsh weather and bad soils, at an elevation of 9,800 to 11,000 feet in the mountain of California, Nevada and Utah, and grow to 40-60 feet in height

First of all, on the world stage, Bristlecone pine trees live the longest—“the Methuselah” in the White Mountains of California, is 4850 years old this year; the oldest cypress is a tree in South America, a Patagonian Sequoia at 3646 years; the oldest Sequoia in the U.S. was the Sierra Nevada at 3266 year old and another at 3220 years; the oldest tree of the Coastal redwood is 2520 years old, and in Sri Lanka a Sacred Fig at 2301 years; and the oldest trees in the UK, are an ancient European yew, somewhere between 2000 and 3000 years old; however, the oldest oak tree is a Bowthorpe Oak in Manthorpe near Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, just over 1,000 years old, with the trees in Sherwood Forest, England, at 800 to 1000 years old; and the Foxtail Pine in the Sierra Nevada of the U.S. at 2110 years—but most Foxtail Pine are no older than 1600 years. In fact, in the entire world, there are only 14 trees judged to be 2000 years old or older and most of these are current dead. It might be of interest to know that some of the shorter-lived trees include palms, which can live around 50 years; the persimmon, which has an average lifespan of 60 years; and the black willow, which will probably survive for around 75 years. On the other hand, Alaska red cedar can live up to 3,500 years. The point is, trees have varying age histories and capabilities, like other living things.
    In any event, the oldest known tree in Brazil is estimated (unreliably) at 3,020 years, and is currently alive, and is probably the oldest non-conifer in Brazil. Its name translates as "Patriarch of the Forest,” and is located at the Vassununga State Park south of Rio de Janeiro in the State of São Paulo in the ancient craton that was not beneath the surface of the sea during the submerged time of the Amazon Basin. Of the 70 oldest trees judged to be in the world, the “Patriarch of the Forest,” is only one of two in all South America, and the only one east of the Andes, though not in the Amazon Basin.
    Despite the widespread deforestation in the tropics, some 85% of Amazon forests remain essentially intact.
Amazon Forest
In the 2.7 million square miles of the broad-leaf rain forest of the Amazonian Basin, among others, certain trees grow there: Palm (Euterpe precatoria), Ceiba, Rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), Cecropia, Kapok, Banana tree, Strangler Fig (Teak), Giant Red Cedar (Curtain Fig), Cathedral Fig.
    This region includes territory belonging to nine nations. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rain forest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rain forests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rain forest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species
    However, according to experts, the Amazon rain forest trees cannot be measured accurately because unlike temperate species, growth rings in tropical trees are frequently absent, poorly developed or highly variable among species, but scientists have estimated, by using demographic studies to infer tree age based on growth rates of trunk diameters, or mean rates of tree mortality, which results in determining Amazon trees can be 750 to 1,000 years old. In fact, most of the trees in the Amazon rain forest are more than 300 years old according to a recent study by Susan Trumbore of the University of California at Irvine, and her colleagues, based on radiocarbon dating methods, as reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (“The Ancient Trees of the Amazon,” (Science News/Live Science, Purch Publishing, New York and Paris, December 14, 2005). However, radiocarbon testing is expensive, technically difficult, and of limited reliability for younger (under 350 years old) trees, as well as difficult to apply except in small-scale studies.
    One of the problems involved in scientists trying to determine the age of the forest through the means used, is the fact that they believe the forest is 55 million years old. Thus, they have a tendency to claim the rain forest is full of very slow-growing trees, since they appear to be younger than many think they should be. They even refer to the Amazon rain forest as a “vast old growth forest,” even though the carbon dating, which was performed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, using their facility's accelerator mass spectrometer, a new device considered to be more accurate than standard radiocarbon dating technology, does not show any trees over a thousand years old. They just say “or older” to link to their belief in the age of the forest. However according to Miguel Martínez-Ramos and Elena R. Alvarez-Buyoolla, of the Institute of Ecology, Mexico, in “How Old Are Tropical Rain forest Trees?” states that “Recent reports indicate that trees can survive to be 1000 years old in the Amazonian rain forest. This appears to contradict the idea that tropical rain forests are highly dynamic systems…Tropical rain forest turn-over rates have been estimated to be less than 400 years” (Plant-Environment interactions, of the 3rd Molecular Plant International Symposium, May 2018). In fact, the article claims that “Recent radiocarbon-based dating techniques suggest that centuries-old trees are common among big canopy trees, but it is not clear how accurate the technique is compared with other methods” such as estimating age of living trees
    It is believed that the drainage basin of the Amazon was split along the middle of the continent by the Púrus Arch—an area of the 240,000-square-mile sedimentary basin located along the middle and lower course of the Amazon River, south of the Guiana Shield and north of the Central Brazilian Shield (which shields were above the sea’s surface anciently). It is bound on the west by the Solimões region, and in the east by the Gurupá Arch, separating the basin from the Marajó Basin (or Marajó island at the mouth of the Amazon River).
    The water on the eastern side of this split flowed toward the Atlantic, while to the west water flowed toward the Pacific across the Amazon Basin. As the Andes Mountains rose, however, a large basin was created that enclosed a lake; now known as the Solimões Basin. Later, this accumulating water broke through the Púrus Arch, joining the easterly flow toward the Atlantic.
Histogram of estimated maximum longevities for 93 species of central Amazonian trees, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, and “Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Brazil

In an overall, several year study conducted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, William F. Laurance, et al., in “Forest Ecology and Management 190,” (Science-Direct, 2004, pp131-143), it was found that of all the varying tree species in the Amazon Basin, (with 3150 trees in the sample) the upper limit, or oldest, was 981 years (Pouteria manaosensis [Sapotaceae]); followed by 818 years (Duckeodendron cestroides [Duckeodendraceae]); and 773 years (Manilkara bidentate [Sapotaceae]). The mean estimated longevity was 330 (plus or minus 192) years; with a median of 296 years. About a quarter of all species were relatively short-lived, about 200 years or less; nearly six-tenths had intermediate longevities of 200-500 years, and the remaining 15% were long-lived at 500-1000 years. In fact, the oldest figure used in the study is 1000 to 1200 years, though no tree or trees were found or so designated.
    Thus, we can look at this and say that the age of trees in the Amazon Basin bear out the fact that the basin surfaced to its present height at the time of the crucifixion, or around 35 A.D., nearly 2000 years ago. On the other hand, perhaps no tree species in the Amazon are the type to live more than 1000 years or so. While this is not conclusive, it is another possible factor in showing the age of the Amazon Basin.

1 comment:

  1. Intere. Thanks for sharing your research on this Del.
    I appreciate how your work is always factual, logical, accurate, and thorough. You even acknowledge the possibility that the types of trees may not be the type to have a long life and that your research does not prove the theory, but certainly supports it.