Story at a glance…
Ancient trees contain genetic information vital to helping forests adapt to changing conditions
These trees which often number just 1% of the population, and live 10-20 times longer than others, are irreplaceable in a forest biome.
There may be 9,000 tree species undiscovered by science, making this research more relevant in keeping threatened ones alive.
Ancient trees are unique, unrecoverable organisms that shape the genetic lineages and resilience of forests throughout the centuries, a new study finds. It’s a claim that puts data and word to a feeling well-known to any who have stood in the presence of monumental, or ancient trees.
Unlike animals, which tend to produce weaker offspring as they get old, the study found that ancient trees, defined as about 1% of the population, and which average 10-20 times the age of their surrounding kin, maintain their fecundity as they enter their antiquity, and continue to produce generations with the unique survival properties which allowed them to become “lottery winners” as the authors describe them.
Their superior genes sustain them through multiple climatic cycles and periods of warming, cooling, wetting, and drying, and pass the knowledge about how to adapt to these conditions onto their offspring.
The number of these ancient trees in a forest biome tends to correlate with the resilience of that ecosystem, and the fewer there are, the more often the forest suffers massive damage from environmental effects.
“In our models, these rare, ancient trees prove to be vital to a forest’s long-term adaptive capacity, substantially broadening the temporal span of the population’s overall genetic diversity,” said Chuck Cannon, Ph.D., director of The Morton Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science in Lisle, IL.