This handout photo released by NGO Imazon shows the tallest Angelim Vermelho (Dinizia Excelsa Ducke) tree ever found in the Amazon.

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

The giant tree, whose top juts high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Reserve in northern Brazil, is an angelim vermelho (scientific name: Dinizia excelsa) at 88.5 meters (290 ft) tall and 9.9 meters (32 ft) tall. the largest ever discovered in the Amazon, scientists say.

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

A team of academics, environmentalists and local guides organized an expedition to try to reach it later that year. But after a 10-day trek over difficult terrain, exhausted, short on supplies, and with a team member sick, they had to turn back.

Three more expeditions to the remote Yari Valley region, on the border between Amapa and Paro states, reached several other giant trees, including the tallest Brazil nut ever recorded in the Amazon at 66 meters.

But the huge angelim vermelho remained elusive until the September 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 terrain to reach it.

One man from the 19-man expedition was bitten by a poisonous spider, which, according to the team doctor.

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

The top of this giant tree juts high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Reserve in northern Brazil

The top of this giant tree juts high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Reserve in northern Brazil.

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

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

Settled under the massive tree, the team collected leaves, soil and other samples that will now be analyzed to explore questions including how old the tree is – at least 400 to 600 years old, Silva estimates – why there are so many giant trees in the region. and how much carbon they store.

About half the weight of the region’s giant trees is carbon sequestered from the atmosphere, which is important for curbing climate change, Silva says.

But despite their remoteness, the region’s giants are under threat.

Angelim vermelho wood is prized by loggers, and the Iratapuru reserve is overrun by illegal gold miners notorious for destroying the environment, says Jacqueline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon, which helped organize the expedition.

“We were delighted with this find,” says Pereira.

“This is very important at a time when the Amazon is facing such horrific levels of deforestation.”

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

The Amazon’s “tallest tree” is safe from fires, scientists say

© 2022 AFP

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