World's Tallest Tropical Tree Discovered On Borneo Island

First Posted: Nov 14, 2016 06:00 AM EST

The scientists discovered the world's tallest tropical tree on Borneo island with a towering 309 feet height. It breaks the record of the previously world's tallest tropical tree known as yellow meranti, which is about 294 feet in height.

They found the new world's tallest tropical tree while mapping the jungle of Sabah. The team used a lidar technology on board a plane. They also discovered other 49 similarly high trees around.

The world's tallest tropical tree belongs to the Shorea genus. On the other hand, the species is to be determined yet. There are about 196 species of Shorea. They stand in southeast Asia, from Northern India to Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. In Borneo, there are about 138 species of Shorea and 91 of them are endemic to the island.

Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University announced the new record of the world's tallest tropical tree at a Heart of Borneo conference on Nov. 10. He told Mongabay that this tallest tropical tree and the 49 runners-up are truly phenomenal expressions of the power of nature.

Asner further said that conservation needs inspiration and these sentinels of the Bornean jungle provide that to humans. He added that this discovery is a gift to science, to the people of Sabah and Borneo and to the world.

Asner used the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) over Sabah forests on board the plane. This maps the animal habitat, canopy biodiversity and carbon stocks.

Asner said that this technique relies on the 500,000 laser shots per second. It gives a very detailed 3D view of the forest canopy down to the ground level. He added that they digitally process and comb the 3D data for the tallest trees.

This is also the same data that they use to gauge how much carbon is stored in the tropical forests. The flight was funded by the U.N. Development Programme and film director James Cameron. 

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