May 14, 2019 10:17 AM EDT
The undisturbed part of the Black River in North Carolina is home to bald cypress trees for over a millennium. In a recent survey, scientists found that there are trees which are over 2000 years old. One of which is at least 2,624 years in the swamp, which rates it as the fifth oldest known tree in the world that is non-clonal.
From the same area, a 2,088-year-old tree was found nearby. The geoscientists that conducted the survey believe that there are more bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) in the three Sisters Swamp. They suggest that trees in the said area could be of the same age or maybe even older.
David Stahle, a geoscientist from the University of Arkansas stated that there are surely a number of trees that are over 2,000 years old at the Black River. Some trees could even be approaching, or if not, exceeding 3,000 years old.
In the 1980s, Stahle and his colleagues found trees that were as old as 1,700 years old. It has been known since then that some of the trees in the region are ancient. The North Carolina Nature Conservancy purchased the 16,000-acre parcel of land to help protect the plants.
The new discovery significantly pushes back the known age of the trees.
The team used a sampling tool known as an increment borer to take a course sample that allows them to count the tree's rings. The said equipment has no lasting harm to the trees. The trees rings are made by annual growth layers. However, taking samples can be complicated by core rot which will result in trees that are hollow in the middle. The team then selected trees that are solid all the way through the core.
Stahle explained why it was exceedingly unusual to see an old growth stand of trees along the whole length of the river because bald cypress trees are known for its valuable timber. This means that the trees have always been heavily logged. The scientist pointed out that only less than 1% of the original virgin bald cypress forest remains standing.
The scientist stated that the trees do not only show its age through the rings but also a clear record of the rainfall during the growing seasons from as early as 605 B.C.E.
Out of 10,000 trees in the area, the team has only scored 110 trees. This makes it likely that there are even older trees in the swamp. It also makes protecting the region even more important.
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