Study: Amazon trees older than believed

December 13, 2005

A University of California-Irvine scientist says many trees in the Amazon tropical forests are much older than previously believed.

A team of American and Brazilian researchers are using radiocarbon dating to study tree growth in the world's largest tropical region.

The team, including UC-Irvine's Susan Trumbore, found as many as half of all trees greater than four inches (10 centimeters) in diameter are more than 300 years old. Some of the trees, Trumbore said, are as much as 750 to 1,000 years old.

Trumbore, a professor of Earth system science, said since the trees are old and slow-growing, the Amazon forests, which contain about a third of all carbon found in land vegetation, might have less capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon than previous thought.

"In the Central Amazon, where we found the slowest growing trees, the rates of carbon uptake are roughly half what is predicted by current global carbon cycle models," Trumbore said. "As a result, those models ... may be overestimating the forests' capacity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

Study results appear in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Ancient human disturbances may skew understanding of Amazon and its impact (Update)

Related Stories

Good news and bad news about forest fragmentation

December 20, 2016

Over the past centuries, as we humans have cleared fields for farms, built roads and highways, and expanded cities ever outward, we've been cutting down trees. Since 1850, we've reduced global forest cover by one-third. We've ...

Amazon's carbon uptake declines as trees die faster

March 18, 2015

The most extensive land-based study of the Amazon to date reveals it is losing its capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. From a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year in the 1990s, the net uptake ...

Recommended for you

Researchers zero-in on cholesterol's role in cells

January 17, 2017

Scientists have long puzzled over cholesterol. It's biologically necessary; it's observably harmful - and nobody knows what it's doing where it's most abundant in cells: in the cell membrane.

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor

January 17, 2017

In a new study, researchers at the University of California San Diego investigate why hair is incredibly strong and resistant to breaking. The findings could lead to the development of new materials for body armor and help ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.