A study by a group of researchers from the University Institute of Sustainable Forest Management of the University of Valladolid (iuFOR), the Rey Juan Carlos University and the Teide National Parkpublished in the prestigious scientific journal ecology of the Ecological Society of America has identified a Canary cedar (Juniperus cedrus) located in the Teide National Park, as the oldest tree in the European Union. The radiocarbon technique has been applied to this specimen, and it has turned out that it is 1,481 years old, so it is four hundred years older than the tree that until now was considered the oldest, a pine in Greece. popularly nicknamed Adonis.
“Two years ago, in 2019, the Teide National Park identified a specimen known as the Patriarch as the oldest tree in the protected natural area, however, this new study confirms that there are even older specimens,” said the Director of Management of the Natural Environment and Security of the Cabildo, Isabel García. The councilor added that “the National Park is a great scientific laboratory in constant operation, and proof of this is this important analysis that delves into the presence of Canarian cedars on the peaks of the island at a time when the vegetation could have been very different from today”.
Access to these populations Juniperus cedrus, a species native to the Canary Islands, is quite difficult as they live perched on volcanic rock cliffs only accessible with advanced climbing techniques. A challenge that scientists overcame thanks to the collaboration of local climbers, experts in conservation work in cliff areas and co-authors of the work.
The researchers verified, after carrying out radiocarbon dating, that several of the specimens studied were over a thousand years old, and that one of them was even 1,481 years old, which makes it the oldest tree dated to date in the Union. European. “Several of the trees we have found are well over a thousand years old, and we have only looked at a small part of what there is, which makes us think that we are barely scratching the surface of what could be one of the most important redoubts of trees. old people of the planet”, points out Gabriel Sangüesa Barreda, Juan de la Cierva researcher at the Campus of the University of Valladolid in Soria and first author of the work.
These ancient trees have been able to overcome five volcanic eruptions in the last 500 years, continuous rock falls, and thrive in a cold, arid climate with hardly any soil. In this sense, “the trees thrive much better on the plain, but to persist they have had to take refuge in the cliffs, since the action of man has been much more devastating than the volcanoes,” says José Miguel Olano, also a researcher at the University of Valladolid in Soria and co-author of the work.
These trees are not only old, but also, together with the conservation and protection measures derived from the creation of the National Park, they are recolonizing the plains from which they were expelled. “The fruit of the cedars is dispersed by the action of birds, so the specimens that survived in the steepest areas are allowing the ancient cedar forests of the park to be recovered,” says José Luis Martín Esquivel, co-author of the work and conservative biologist. of the Teide National Park.