A news report says that the oldest living tree has been found on the Sweden-Norway border.
The report comes from Leif Kullman, a prominent Swedish paleo-scientist. The story says:
Prof Leif Kullman at Umeå University and colleagues found a cluster of around 20 spruces that are over 8,000 years old. The oldest tree, in Fulu Mountain, Dalarna (“the dales”), was dated by carbon dating at a laboratory in Miami, Florida to 9,550 years old and around it were generations of clones 375, 5,660 and 9,000 years old that have the same genetic makeup. The clones take root each winter as snow pushes low lying branches of the mother tree down to ground level, explains Prof Kullman.
“A new erect stem emerges, and it may lose contact with the mother tree over time.”
The trunks of the mother tree would survive only around 600 years but the trees are able to grow a new one, he adds. The finding is surprising because the spruce tree has been regarded as a relative newcomer in the Swedish mountain region and is thought to have originated 600 miles away in the east.
“Our results have shown the complete opposite, that the spruce is one of the oldest known trees in the mountain range,” says Prof Kullman.
Ten millennia ago, a spruce would have been extremely rare and it is conceivable that the ancient humans who lived there imported the tree, he says.
“Man immigrated close to the receding ice front. We have also found fossil acorns in this area, and people may have taken them with them as they moved over the landscape.”
It had been thought that this region was still in the grip of the ice age but the tree shows it was much warmer, even than today, he says.
“Spruces are the species that can best give us insight about climate change,” he says.
The summers 9,500 years ago were warmer than today, though there has been a rapid recent rise as a result of climate change that means modern climate is rapidly catching up.
The tree probably survived as a result of several factors: the generally cold and dry climate, few forest fires and relatively few humans. Today, however, the nature conservancy authorities are considering putting a fence around the record breaking tree to protect it from trophy hunters.
I can’t tell from this description whether the mother tree will yield a complete chronology; visually it looks smaller than the old bristlecones. If they’re talking about a continuous clone, then I think that there are other examples of such a phenomenon of similar age – I recall seeing something about cactus.
Tornetrask, which we’ve discussed on a number of occasions, is also located in Sweden. Grudd has a new Tornetrask reconstruction, which I’ve requested a digital version of – so far unsuccessfully and without a response.
In a post a couple of years ago, I mentioned what happened to the previous holder of the record as oldest living tree:
To facilitate compilation of a long-term tree-ring chronology for the Wheeler Peak area, one of the larger living bristlecone pines was sectioned. This tree, WPN-114, grew at an altitude of 10,750 feet on the gently sloping crest of a massive lateral moraine of Pleistocene age. The site was relaitvely stable during the lifetime of the tree, the only appreciable change being an accumulation of avalanche-transported debris so that the present ground surface is about 2 ft above the original base of the tree.