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Researchers Have Found The Tallest Tropical Tree In The World

Scientists have declared the finding of the tallest tropical tree in the world, with a height of 94.1-metre (309-foot) tree in Borneo breaking the previous record. Furthermore, discovering the tallest known tree in the world, the research also found the next 49 tallest trees, each of which is greater than 90 meters (295 feet) in height making an extraordinary 50 record-breakers in a single haul. To imagine an idea of how big these trees actually are, the scientists say the tallest tree is almost the length of six sperm whales, each tree is roughly 16 meters (52 feet) long if measured from head to tail.

Robin Martin/Carnegie Institution for Science

Ecologist Gregory Asner from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University told Mike Gaworecki at Mongabay, "I have been doing this for more than 20 years now, and I have to say, this was one of the greatest moving experiences in my profession. This highest tropical tree and the 49 standing in second place are truly remarkable expressions of the power of nature."

The discovery comes just months after another team of scientists from Cambridge University in the UK shocked the world with the discovery of a tropical tree measuring 89.5 meters (293.6 feet) in Maliau Basin, a reserve in the Bornean state of Sabah. But Asner's crew used laser scanning to discover that another reserve in Sabah, called Danum Valley, consist of a grove of trees with even greater tallness. The scientists recognized the trees' height with an airliner called the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, which uses a laser-based system called LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) that can calculate and map lands in three dimensions.

Asner told Mongabay, "This method trusts on the 500,000 laser shots per second that we shot to the bottom of the plane as we fly, which delivers a very comprehensive 3D view of the forest canopy down to the earth level. We then digitally process and search the 3D data for the tallest trees (in this instance)."

Greg Asner/Carnegie Institution for Science

With the LiDAR(Light Detection and Ranging) data in hand, Asner returned to the region by helicopter, to understand the world's tallest humid tree in a sea of green beneath.

He said, "We designed straight at the coordinates of the tree pointed in our laser scanning facts. And there it was, sticking out directly above the rest of the canopy."

As the tree has only been detected remotely at this point, the researchers have not had a chance to approve the species just yet, but it's possible to be in the genus Shorea, which covers almost 200 species of rainforest trees inherent to Southeast Asia. Borneo is a land to 130 of these species, which can stay alive for hundreds of years, but many are rare by logging. To confirm the species, the team aims to visit each of the tallest 50 trees in the up-coming weeks, and it's reasonable to say that these massive specimens will make fairly an impression when observed closely, much as they did when seen from a helicopter.

Asner said, "The wild thing is that our tallest tree is nearly bordered on each side by a tree of the similar species of Shorea, nearly as tall! So, there are three trees, like brothers, standing directly above the rest of the canopy. I nearly cried as we encircled the tree maybe 10 times before the pilot whispered we had to go back."

But as amazing as that is, it's still not as tall as the tallest trees in the tropics. The world's tallest tree wherever, California redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), have been measured as tall as 115.5 meters (379 feet), putting even massive Shorea in the shade. The new learning has not been published in a scientific journal yet, so we cannot think through the claims concerning stature as having been confirmed until other researchers have had a chance to study the research. Not that classification these epic trees is just some kind of logical one-upmanship, however. Separately from measuring their physical size, the aim of the Bornean study is to help us recognize the mass and health of these forest populations so that we can improve and defend them from dangers like logging.

One of the team, Glen Reynolds from the South East Asia Rainforest Research Program (SEARRP), told Kevin McLean at National Geographic, "Tallest tree apart, this work actually highlights the value of defending primary forests. These antique trees are really only found in primary forests, many of which are not accurately protected. A comprehensive map like this will be valuable for starting conservation priorities."

So despite the fact, most of the attention the scientists gets will perhaps be a result of them having sprawled upon the tallest tree in the tropics, that fact does not trouble them in the slightest.

Asner told Mongabay, "Preservation needs motivation, and these trees of the Bornean jungle deliver that to us. This finding is a gift to science, to the public of Sabah and Borneo, and to the world."

The discoveries were offered at the International Heart of Borneo Conference 2016 last week.

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