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Scientists Reach Tallest Tree Ever Found in Amazon

Amazon Tallest Tree Angelim vermelho
Scientists reach tallest tree ever found in Amazon. Credit: NGO Imazon

Scientists have reached the tallest tree ever found in the Amazon rainforest after three years of planning, five expeditions, and a two-week trek through the dense jungle.

The giant tree, which is as tall as a twenty-five story building, has a top that juts out high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil. It has been identified by scientists as Angelim Vermelho (scientific name: Dinizia excelsa) measuring 88.5 meters (290 feet) tall.

Researchers first spotted the massive tree in satellite images in 2019 as part of a 3D mapping project.

A team of academics, environmentalists, and local guides mounted an expedition to try to reach it later that year, but, after a ten-day trek through difficult terrain, they had to turn back due to exhaustion, lack of supplies, and a team member’s illness.

More expeditions in the Amazon revealed other gigantic trees

Apart from initial attempts, scientists conducted three more expeditions to the reserve’s remote Jari Valley region on the border between the states of Amapa and Para. They reached several other gigantic trees, including the tallest Brazil nut tree ever recorded in the Amazon at sixty-six meters tall.

However, the enormous Angelim Vermelho was difficult to locate until the September 12th to September 25th expedition, during which researchers traveled 250 kilometers (155 miles) by boat up rivers with treacherous rapids in addition to going another twenty kilometers on foot across mountainous jungle terrain to get to the tree.

Along the trail, one person on the nineteen-member expedition was bitten by what the team doctor believes was a poisonous spider, but forest engineer Diego Armando Silva of Amapa Federal University, who helped organize the trip, said that the expedition was worth it.

Silva, a 33-year-old engineer told reporters, “It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine.”

“You’re in the middle of this forest where humankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature,” Silva added.

After camping under the massive tree, the group collected leaves, soil, and other samples, which will now be analyzed in attempt to determine the age of the tree, the reason the region has so many giant trees, and the amount of carbon the trees store.

Silva estimates the enormous Angelim Vermelho tree to be at least four to six hundred years old.

Trees curb climate change due to carbon absorption

Silva said that around half of the weight of the region’s giant trees is carbon absorbed from the atmosphere—fundamental in helping curb climate change.

Despite their remoteness, however, the region’s giant trees are under threat.

Jakeline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon, which helped organize the expedition said, Angelim Vermelho wood is prized by loggers, and the Iratapuru Reserve is being invaded by illegal gold miners infamous for bringing ecological destruction.

She said, “We were so thrilled to make this find, [and] it’s super important at a time when the Amazon is facing such frightening levels of deforestation.”

It should be noted that, over the past three years, the average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by seventy-five percent from the previous decade.

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