Fitz Fellow finds ‘tallest’ tree
David Coomes is the lead Cambridge researcher on the team that found the 89.5 m tree in one of Malaysia’s last untouched wildernesses.
The conservation scientists involved in the international BALI (Biodiversity and Land-use Impacts) project are looking at biodiversity and land-use impacts on tropical ecosystem function, monitoring the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of a pristine rainforest.
The tree, a Yellow Meranti, is in Sabah’s Lost World’ – the Maliau Basin Conservation Area - and stands on a slope: downhill it’s 91m tall, and uphill it’s around 88m tall. “We’d put it at 89.5m on average,” explains Dr David Coomes, from Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences. “It’s a smidgen taller than the record, which makes it quite probably the tallest tree recorded in the Tropics!”
The tree was spotted using a LiDAR scanner – a machine that’s capable of producing detailed three-dimensional images of rainforest canopies over hundreds of square kilometres.
“Conserving these giants is really important. Some, like the California redwoods, are among the largest and longest-living organisms on earth. Huge trees are crucial for maintaining the health of the forest and its ecology. But they are difficult to find, and monitor regularly, which is where planes carrying LiDAR can help.”
Dr David Coomes is Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (biological) at Fitzwilliam.