How ancient trees help their forest survive

DECRYPTION – Even if they are very rare, these “champions” allow their ecosystem to adapt to variations in the environment.

Their twisted and stunted silhouette, their hollow trunk – or on the contrary their majestic size – bear witness to the time that has passed on them without bringing them down. Despite their singular appearance, ancient trees play an indispensable role in their ecosystem.

“Old trees are essential to the long-term adaptability of the forest and cannot be replaced. They must be protected to preserve their invaluable diversity., pleads Charles Cannon, researcher at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago (United States), in a study on the longevity of trees in the forest. This simulation work, published in January in the scientific journal Nature Plantsestimates the proportion of mature, old and very old individuals in a forest population.

A tiny proportion

“Researchers are interested in forests that are little touched by humans, where the trees are not harvested and can age naturally”specifies Guillaume Decocq, ecologist at the University of Picardy. “By including in their model…

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