A verdant forest in southern Chile could be home to the world’s oldest tree after a new study found that an ancient pine tree dubbed the “big tree” may be more than 5,000 five years old.
Scientists could not determine the exact age based on the tree rings because of the huge trunk. Normally, a 1-meter (1.09-meter) post tree is extracted to count the tree rings, but the trunk of the big man is 4 meters in diameter.
Jonathan Barichivich, the scientist who led the study, said the tree samples they extracted and other dating methods showed the tree to be 5,484 years old.
“This method tells us that 80 percent of the growth trajectories can give us a lifespan of this living tree greater than 5,000 years,” says Barichivich. “There’s only a 20% chance the tree is younger.”
The estimated age would beat the current record holder, a 4,853-year-old hardy pine in California, by more than half a millennium.
“If one compares it with the trees that are all dated, we count all the rings, it would make it one of the oldest living trees on the planet,” says Barichivich.
While it has survived through the ages of human civilization, Barichivich is concerned about the tree’s prominence in Alerce Costero National Park. Visitors often leave the observatory, stomp on the tree’s roots and even take pieces of its bark, he said.
He said that similar trees in the United States are concealed their location to prevent similar damage.
Barichivich said he hopes people can “think for a split second about what it means to live 5,000 years” and put their lives and the climate crisis into perspective.
Reuters television reportage; Written by Fabian Cambero and Alexander Villegas, edited by Tomasz Janowski