We finally reached the tallest tree in the Amazon 3 years after its discovery: ScienceAlert

After three years of planning, five expeditions and a two-week trek through the dense jungle, scientists have arrived at the tallest tree ever found in the Amazon rainforest, a towering specimen the size of a 25-story building.

The giant tree, whose top protrudes high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil, is angelim vermelho (scientific name: Dinizia excelsa) with a height of 88.5 meters (290 feet) and a circumference of 9.9 meters (32 feet) – the largest ever found in the Amazon, scientists say.

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

A group of academics, environmentalists and local guides organized an expedition to try to reach it later that year.

But after a 10-day trek through difficult terrain, exhausted, low on supplies and with one member of the group falling ill, they had to turn back.

Three more expeditions to the remote Jari Valley area of ​​the reserve, located on the border between the states of Amapa and Para, reached several other giant trees, including the tallest Brazil nut ever recorded in the Amazon – 66 meters.

(Amazon/Ideflor/AFP)

But the huge vermilion angel remained elusive until the Sept. 12-25 expedition, when researchers traveled 250 kilometers (155 miles) by boat up rivers with treacherous rapids, plus another 20 kilometers on foot through mountainous jungle to reach it.

One person in the 19-member expedition was bitten by what the team doctor believes was a poisonous spider.

But it was worth it, says forest engineer Diego Armando Silva of the Federal University of Amapa, who helped organize the trip.

“It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine,” Silva, 33, told AFP.

“You are in the middle of this forest where mankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature.”

After camping under the massive tree, the team collected leaves, soil and other samples, which will now be analyzed to study questions that include how old the tree is – at least 400 to 600 years old, Silva estimates – because the area has so many giant trees and how much carbon they store.

Looking at the trunk of a very tall tree.
The tree is 88.5 meters (290 ft) tall and 9.9 meters (32 ft) around. (Amazon/Ideflor/AFP)

About half the weight of the region’s giant trees is carbon absorbed from the atmosphere – fundamental to limiting climate change, says Silva.

But despite its remoteness, the giants of the region are under threat.

Angelim vermelho wood is prized by loggers, and the Iratapuru reserve is being invaded by illegal gold miners notorious for ecological destruction, says Jakeline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon, which helped organize the expedition.

“We were so excited to make this find,” says Pereira.

“It is extremely important at a time when the Amazon is facing such alarming levels of deforestation.”

Over the past three years, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent since the previous decade.

© Agence France-Presse

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