For a long time, scientists believed that the demonstrably oldest trees in the world, the "Bristlecone Pines" or Grann pines, were located in the White Mountains in California. Their wood shows about 100 annual rings in one centimetre. The oldest is called "Methuselah" and is over 4700 years old. In 2012, scientists discovered a tree in the same region dated 5062 years old. However, out of fear of too many visitors, its exact location remains secret.
The Tamrit cypresses in the Algerian Tassil Mountains are 4000 to 5000 years old. However, there is no exact proof of this, just as there is no proof of a Japanese sickle fir on the island of Yakushima, which is estimated to be about 7000 years old.
In 2008, however, Swedish researchers found a small spruce on Mount Fulu in the country's centre, dated to be 9550 years old.
Wherever the oldest tree may be, one thing is clear: a lot of time passes before a tree dies a natural death. However, this process is constantly accelerated when humans have a hand in it.
In the 1980s, sulphur dioxide emissions from industry and coal-fired power plants, or nitrogen oxides, most of which came from car traffic, caused the trees to die. Both led to acid rain and thus also to forest dieback. In combination with oxygen, both substances form acids, whose toxic acid load is released to the plants and into the soil.
Terrifying news from the tropics
But it is not enough with all the pollutants for our plant life. Every year, around 300,000 square kilometres of forest are cut down or burned worldwide - a good half of them in tropical countries: first and foremost in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia (source: Global Forest Watch, 2017).
And as if even that were not enough, drought and beetles also kill millions of trees in our world every year. "Zeit-Online" ran the headline in July 2019: "Catastrophe of the century": about 110,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed nationwide, 300 million trees would have to be replanted.
Acid rain, nitrogen oxides, slash-and-burn, droughts or pests - the list of threats to our tree populations grows and grows. Every single one of these threats is artificial. Due to the ongoing destruction of our environment, rapid climate change and a rapidly increasing earth population, there seems to be little salvation for the world's tree and plant population.
According to the World Population Clock of the German Foundation for World Population, there are currently (as of 25 August 2021) around 7.89 billion people living on earth. According to a UN forecast on the development of the world population, the number of inhabitants will increase to 9.74 billion by 2050 and 10.87 billion by 2100.
This will also increase the demand for living space, motor vehicles and industrial and consumer goods of all kinds. All in all, the outlook is not good.
We, as HELIOZ, actively contribute to the maintenance of the forests by preventing deforestation through solar water disinfection. The importance of forests has a high priority in our company and we are grateful to be part of the solution.