Scientists from Stockholm University (Sweden), the University of Mainz (Germany) and the University of Arizona (USA) found the oldest known living tree in Europe in the highlands of northern Greece. They were looking for hints about the story of climate change and human influences in the region when they found a 1,075-year old Pinus Hel dreich ii, known as Bosnian pine.
Because of the land where the Bosnian pine was found and its venerable age, the scientists decided to nickname it “Adonis” after the Greek god of desire and youthful beauty. The researchers explained that they extracted cores from the tree to count growth rings, a process that does not endanger the organism. They took a core of wood that is one meter and has as much as 1075 annual rings.
Lead researcher and Stockholm University graduate student Paul J. Krusic is an expert in dendrochronology, a method of ring dating that allowed him to determine the age of Adonis conclusively. This particular type of tree lays down one ring a year, and that made it easier to age it.
The scientists pointed out that they did not reach the center, and therefore some number of the tree’s rings were not counted. This means that Adonis is definitely older, but the researchers just reported the real ring number, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Looking for hints about climate change
Krusic said he had read an academic thesis on that Grecian treeline forest high in the Pindos Mountains and then became interested in it. Because his expedition was focused on tree dating as a method to investigate environmental shifts, the results of Adonis’ age will not be published in any journal.
The expedition, conducted by the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO), looks at fallen comrades that surround Adonis and its compatriots. Such trees have stayed preserved on the ground for thousands of years mainly because of the dry air that characterizes that particular region. The NEO, a cooperation between Stockholm University and the Academy of Athens, studies the impact of climate change on environment and humans in Mediterranean.
“That has a story in it. A story about climate change, about human influences,” Krusic said, as reported by The Washington Post. “That’s the real story we’re working on. This is just something we stumbled upon.”
What makes Adonis a special old tree?
Of course, many other trees are older than Adonis in Europe. Some have even lived for about 10,000 years, but those are clonal and reproduce asexually throughout history. What is unique about Adonis is that individual trees like it are just a few hundred years old in spite of the fact that they are genetically identical to the collectively ancient trees that are part of the same root system.
Krusic affirmed that the Bosnian pine his team found is a unique individual unable to rely on a mother plant. It also lacks the ability to split or clone itself but still has managed to survive on its own for such a long time.
Other estimations suggest that separate individual trees are much older than Adonis, but only based on size, presumed growth rate, and historical record. The United States is full of different trees whose ages have been confirmed in the thousands, but before this Bosnian pine was found the oldest ever discovered in Europe was barely a millennium.
Adonis has witnessed significant changes in human history
The researchers found more than a dozen separate trees around Adonis that were almost 1,000 years old. Krusic was impressed by the fact that these broad and complex trees managed to survive in a relatively busy area that has been inhabited for over 3000 years.
The majority of ancient trees found in the United States are actually in the middle of completely isolated areas. The lead researcher assumes that the trees have successfully adapted to live in an ecosystem not wanted by other living creatures. Still, people chose to live just down the road.
“I am impressed, in the context of western civilization, all the human history that has surrounded this tree; all the empires, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, all the people living in this region. So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years” Krusic said, as reported by Phys.org.
When Adonis was just a seeding in the 941, the Byzantine Empire was at its peak, and the Vikings sailed the Black Sea from the North. A century later, Adonis was a relatively young tree when Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland, and the Chinese published a book about gunpowder. The third crusade was batting Salading in the Holy Land and the University of Paris and Oxford were founded when the Bosnian pine was 250 years old.
In 1441, Adonis was 500 years old, and the Ottoman Empire conquered Greece. That same year Johannes Gutenberg was about to try out the first printing press. In 1691, Isaac Newton formulated the laws of Motion and Europe welcomed ice cream, tea, and coffee for the first time when Adonis was 750 years old. The unique individual tree was a millennium old when World War II hit the world, and its land was occupied by Nazi Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria in 1941.
Source: Huffington Post