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: Tropical trees use unique method to resist drought

Related Stories

Seasonal patterns in the Amazon explained

February 22, 2018

Environmental scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have led an international collaboration to improve satellite observations of tropical forests.

Hunting is changing forests, but not as expected

February 15, 2018

When it comes to spreading their seeds, many trees in the rainforest rely on animals, clinging to their fur or hitching a ride within their digestive tract. As the seeds are spread around, the plants' prospects for survival ...

Recommended for you

The Swiss army knife of smoke screens

March 18, 2018

Setting off smoke bombs is more than good fun on the Fourth of July. The military uses smoke grenades in dangerous situations to provide cover for people and tanks on the move. But the smoke arms race is on. Increasingly, ...

Plasmons triggered in nanotube quantum wells

March 16, 2018

A novel quantum effect observed in a carbon nanotube film could lead to the development of unique lasers and other optoelectronic devices, according to scientists at Rice University and Tokyo Metropolitan University.

Researchers measure gene activity in single cells

March 16, 2018

For biologists, a single cell is a world of its own: It can form a harmonious part of a tissue, or go rogue and take on a diseased state, like cancer. But biologists have long struggled to identify and track the many different ...


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.