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   Oldest living tree-world record set by a Swedish spruce

[April 17] UMEA, Sweden--The world's oldest living tree on record is a nearly 10,000 year-old spruce that has been discovered in the Dalarna province, Umea University said on Thursday.

    Photo: The world's oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. A favourable climate has produced an upright trunk since the beginning of the 1940s. Photo: Leif Kullman
   (enlarge photo)

    Researchers had discovered a spruce with genetic material dating back 9,550 years in the Fulu mountain in Dalarna, according to Leif Kullmann, a professor of Physical Geography at the Umea University in northwestern Sweden.

   That would mean it had taken root in roughly the year 7,542 BC. "It was a big surprise because we thought until (now) that this kind of spruce grew much later in those regions," he said.    

    Scientists had previously believed the world's oldest trees were 4,000 to 5,000 year-old pine trees found in North America.

   The new record-breaking tree was discovered in Dalarna in 2004 when Swedish researchers were carrying out a census of tree species in the region, Kullman said.

   The tree's genetic material age had been calculated using carbon dating at a laboratory in Miami, Florida.

   Spruces, which according to Kullmann offer rich insight into climate change, had long been regarded as relatively newcomers in the Swedish mountain region.

    The discovery of the ancient tree had therefore led to "a big change in our way of thinking," he said.

    In the Swedish mountains, from Lapland in the North to Dalarna in the South, scientists have found a cluster of around 20 spruces that are over 8,000 years old. Although summers have been colder over the past 10,000 years, these trees have survived harsh weather conditions due to their ability to push out another trunk as the other one died.

   The tree probably survived as a result of several factors: the generally cold and dry climate, few forest fires and relatively few humans.

    Today, however, the nature conservancy authorities are considering putting a fence around the record breaking tree to protect it from trophy hunters.

  Source: Umea University, agencies

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