Of old trees… and old birds

Trees are surely one of the longest-living organisms in God’s creation. The record for longevity has long been thought to be held by Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in California, at 4,852 years old, though a fellow bristlecone may be 5,072 years ancient as of this year. (Think well before the time of Abraham). Now there is news out of Chile that an alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides or Patagonian Cypress) could be as old as 5,484. The dating was done with a new method and has not yet been peer-reviewed, but still: Gran Abuelo (great-grandfather tree), measuring more than four meters in diameter and almost 60 meters in height is surely one more monument to God’s creation.

Of course, like the rest of creation, Gran Abuelo is being threatened by tourism and climate change. (The locations of the bristlecone pines in California are kept secret for a reason).

What is clear is that the tree is at risk from both tourism and the climate crisis, which could dry out the region and make it harder for the tree to access water. A second tree growing out of the alerce is dying, according to Live Science. Further, the platform surrounding the tree is crushing its roots. Barichivich advised that the walkway be moved farther from the tree and that the tree itself be shielded in netting ten feet high. 

“People are killing it,” Barichivich told Science of the tree. “It requires our protection urgently.”

At the other end of the age spectrum, birds are not long-lived, at least compared to trees. But A Rocha Kenya, which has been ringing birds for a couple of decades, announced on 19 May of this year that they had found a Northern Brownbul that had originally been ringed on 15 February, 2003 – which makes it at least 19 years, 3 months and 4 days old as of the date of capture:

Well done, A Rocha Kenya!