CHILE NATURE – Chile’s ‘Great Grandfather’ alerce tree could be world’s oldest

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Ever since he was a child, scientist Jonathan Barichivich sensed that the “Great Grandfather”, the alerce tree — or Patagonian cypress — that his family painstakingly took care of in Los Ríos in southern Chile, was special. Now, more than three decades later, he has discovered why: at nearly 5,500 years old, it could well be the oldest tree in the world.

The discovery came about almost by chance, when Barichivich was studying the impact of climate change on alerce trees, a conifer species native to Patagonia that is threatened by a variety of factors, such as wildfires, logging and drought.  

“We obtained a small sample of the tree and, although it was not the initial objective of the research, we were able to estimate its age. We were very surprised to discover that it is much older than we thought, since we thought it was between 3,500 and 4,000 years old,” he tells Efe in front of the almost 30 meter-tall giant.