How old are tropical trees?
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How old are tropical trees?

Although large trees such as this Dinizia excelsa (left) and Cariniana micrantha (right) are relatively rare, they account for a large fraction of forest biomass, are important structural features of the forest, and serve as a focal point for sustainable forest management.

Boat-based botanical group for carrying out species identifications

Contact Information

Jeff Chambers
Tulane University
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
310 Dinwiddie Hall
New Orleans, LA  70118
Ph:   504-862-8291
Fax:: 504-862-8706

Demographic models of growth and mortality can be used to infer the age structure of tropical forest trees, but direct measurements are required to confirm model predictions.  Using radiocarbon isotope dating, tree age was directly determined for 44 large trees from 15 species.  Results demonstrated that Central Amazon trees can unexpectedly live for more than 1000 years, and that the mean age for meter-diameter trees was about 500 years (Chambers et al. 1998, Chambers et al. 2001b).  Recently, broader forest age structure study at a number of Amazon sites was carried out by a Brazilian post-doctoral researcher in our group (Vieira et al. 2005).

Sampling the stump of a loggrf Dipteryx odorata tree in the Central Amazon for radiocarbon analysis