Study authors Gianluca Piovesan and Charles H. Cannon, among others, wrote: “Ancient trees are unique habitats that protect threatened species because they resist and buffer against warming. Some of these trees, such as the bristle pine in the White Mountains of California and Nevada, are unique habitats. Can live up to 5,000 years and act as a large-scale carbon store.”
Ancient trees are hotspots for mycorrhizal connections, and this symbiotic relationship with subterranean fungi provides plants with many of the nutrients they need to survive. This symbiotic relationship with fungi also helps reduce drought in dry environments. Ancient trees play a disproportionately large role in conservation planning, yet are being lost globally at an alarming rate.
The scientists recommend a two-pronged strategy to protect ancient trees: first, to protect these ancient trees by propagating and preserving their germplasm and meristems; second, to systematically combine complete conservation and forest rewilding.
A bristlecone pine called Methuselah, located within the White Mountains, is the oldest known and proven living tree in the world at 4,854 years old.
They write: “Mapping and monitoring old-growth forests and ancient trees can directly assess the effectiveness and sustainability of protected areas and their ecological integrity. To carry out this ambitious project, a global monitoring platform based on advanced technologies is required. , while requiring the public to contribute through community science projects.”
Currently, the protection of forests, woodlands, historic gardens, and ancient trees in urban and agricultural areas is still limited by the level of national policy. According to the authors, “The current review of the CBD and the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goal 15 ‘Life on Land’ should include the mapping and monitoring of ancient and valuable trees as protected areas in the maintenance of and a key indicator of the effectiveness of restoring forest integrity for sustainable development.”
“We call on the international community to work to preserve these centers of diversity and resilience. A global coalition is needed to use advanced technologies and community scientists to discover, protect and reproduce ancient trees before they disappear.”