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The oldest living bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) found at least 2,624 years old

Longevity, climate sensitivity, and conservation status of wetland trees at Black River, North Carolina. A recently documented stand of bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) in North Carolina, including one tree at least 2,624 years old, are the oldest known living trees in eastern North America and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.

David Stahle of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and colleagues discovered the trees in 2017 in a forested wetland preserve along the Black River south of Raleigh, North Carolina. Stahle documented the age of the trees using dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, and radio carbon dating.

Dlium The oldest living bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) found at least 2,624 years old

The researchers report the findings in Environmental Research Communications, the ancient trees are part of an intact ecosystem that spans most of the 65-mile length of the Black River. The trees are a scientifically valuable means of reconstructing ancient climate conditions.

The oldest trees in the preserve extend the paleoclimate record in the southeast United States by 900 years, and show evidence of droughts and flooding during colonial and pre-colonial times that exceed any measured in modern times. Researchers used non-destructive core samples from 110 trees found in a section of the wetland forest they had not previously visited.

"It is exceedingly unusual to see an old-growth stand of trees along the whole length of a river like this. Bald cypress are valuable for timber and they have been heavily logged. Way less than 1 percent of the original virgin bald cypress forests have survived," said Stahle.

Dlium.com Dlium The oldest living bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) found at least 2,624 years old

Stahle has been working in the area since 1985 and cataloged bald cypress trees as old as 1,700 years in a 1988 study published in the journal Science. The new findings helped preserve the area, 16,000 acres of which have since been purchased by The Nature Conservancy, a private land-conservation group that keeps most of its holdings open to the public.

"The area of old growth bald cypress was 10 times larger than I realized. We think there are older trees out there still," Stahle said.

Journal : D W Stahle et al. Longevity, climate sensitivity, and conservation status of wetland trees at Black River, North Carolina, Environmental Research Communications, 9 May 2019, DOI:10.1088/2515-7620/ab0c4a

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