Tall trees measured in Spain

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Re: Tall trees measured in Spain

Post by Don » Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:30 pm

While science would have us quantify the qualities we see in trees, it occurs to me that if we are unable to describe what "big" means, we may not understand it as well as we think.

As Bob and I, and others back at the beginning of AF's current Measuring Guidelines Working Group, took a stab at what we mean by 'big', we went back to basics. As you approach a big tree, we discussed what it was that elevated the status of a tree (in a forest, or in a field) to "big". For me it was first height (where from a distance, the tree's crown emerged above the adjacent forest), then crown size (especially in a field), and finally the circumference (especially upon close approach).

This is not typical of the forester I served as through much of my career, whose primary measure of a tree was its number of board feet, or cubic feet of volume. There, circumference was primary, then followed by the number of logs to a commercial standard top. When cruising timber, girth was 'eyeballed' into 2" diameter classes, height in the number of 8' logs (or 4' for some species/utilization types) to a commercial 6" top (diameter outside bark), with little concern for crown other than a generally healthy appearance.

What do Bob and I think that future registers will use to define "Big". The tallest tree with the biggest circumference and largest crown is an easy answer, but difficult to quantify much better than the existing AF rule. Not currently an easy task, measuring the volume of a tree, particularly the giants, we predict that volume will be the "gold standard". At least in the beginning, for the closest of contenders.

Exhaustive efforts such as those by Sillett to determine volume accurately of the hectare of giant redwoods, have to have normally unavailable funding, and are unrealistic outside of an academic pursuit. Current advances lending optimism to accurate volumetric measurements are those similar to the "cloud mapping" done by Mike Taylor. These are highly accurate, non-invasive, and highly functional in measuring much of what we might call non-standard forms.
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
Restoration Forester (Retired)
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Jess Riddle
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Re: Tall trees measured in Spain

Post by Jess Riddle » Sat Feb 14, 2015 9:49 pm


Thanks for passing along this information.

I've measured pecan in its native habitat to 147.0' (44.8 m). Historically, I think 140' pecans would have been fairly common, but most good pecan habitat has been converted to agriculture or is cut far to frequently to allow trees to approach their maximum height.


Jeroen Philippona
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Re: Tall trees measured in Spain

Post by Jeroen Philippona » Sun Feb 15, 2015 7:41 am

To the several questions concerning champion trees in Europe there is not a simple answere. Indeed in most European countries were there are champion tree organisations with databases the concentration is more on circumferenace than on height.

This is easy to explain: the interest in big and old trees arose in several countries because of the urbanisation and the many trees wich were felled because of urban development, building of houses, modernisations of roads, etc. In the Netherlands the first tree register was made by the 'Bomenstichting' = Tree Foundation, an organisation started because of the many trees lost to development.
First aim was better protection of trees and more public awareness of the importance of trees. It was not directed to forests and nature, other organisations already dealt with those.

In many European countries the oldest and most impressive trees are solitarian, open grown trees in villages and in the agricultural landscape, wich in many locations is very old, sometimes dating form Roman times, but often existing many centuries, including the old villages and towns.
Instead, forests are rarely natural, most are wood plantations or smaller estate forests. The last often have the oldest trees.

Also it is my experience that many more people are impressed by thick old trees, especially open grown, with wide crowns, compared to tall trees.

In Germany planted forests are often beech, oak, Norway spruce, Scotch pine, Douglas fir, larch and other exotic conifers.
In the UK there are some semi natural forests like the 1000 year old New Forest. This in fact has been grazed by cattle, horses and deer since the eleventh century. Part were not grazed and had more closed forest. Dominant tree species in these semi natural forests are two species of oak, European beech, ash, alder, birch and some smaller species. These trees have heights of 60 to 100, sometimes 120 feet.
Planted forest in the UK often also non native conifers. So few forests with really impressive, tall trees.

The European Champion Tree Forum is a very informal organisation, started in 2010 by David Alderman and Christopher Carnaghan from the British Tree Register.
I attended the first two meetings, in Belgium (2010) and Germany (2011). The next two meetings in Poland and Spain I could not go to.
In the group of around 100 interested persons from about 15 countries several represent National / local organisations, dendrological societies, etc. Others are on their own, like Michel Brunner, who wrote several books on big trees in Switzerland.
Most of the members are not foresters, some are professional arborists, many are more concerned with trees in towns compared to forests.
In the group of attendants may are from dendrological groups. These are often most interested in tree species and in girth champions of the species.
Several of them have told me that they think of height measurement as less interesting, because often trees lose their top when growing older, but keep their trunk as most stable part. So girth is connected to old age much more than height for many species.
Also girth in the past was much easier measured.
The secretary of the ECTF is a scientist / biologist doing research on Elms and other species. He was not that much interested in height.

In 2011 at the meeting in Germany Leo Goudzwaard and I had a lecture on height measurement using laser and Sine method. We also proposed to use the website www.monumentaltrees.com (we call it MT) as the common database for the ECTF. Several attendants aproved this, especially those from the UK.
Others like the secretary not, they thougt the bias at MT is too much towards heightmeasurement, wich in fact is not true.

So at this moment MT is a database were champion trees from several counties have been added. The British Tree Register added some of their top species and specimen to MT, wich has now most of the tallest and biggest trees of the UK. For the Netherlands, Belgium and in part Germany, Polans, the Czech Republic and Hungary this was done, but not officially by the organisations.

In he ECTF group there are some persons height measuring like Marc Meyer from Belgium, David Alderman (England), Leo Goudzwaard and myself.
Marc and David did most of the heightmeasurement in Spain.

In the British Tree Register now there is interest in exact heightmeasurement, wich they do with sine based laser as well as with climbing with tape drop.

In the past heightmeasurement in Europe was done most often by foresters and forest researchers, using tangent methods. The tree organisations concerning big trees often used simple methods like the 'stick' method. Often they mismeasured height.
Still many of these people are not much interested in exact heightmeasurements.

The German Champion Tree website indeed concentrates on circumference. You can order the trees in the database on height, but they don't have lots of good height measurements and don't have the tallest specimen in Germany for many species.

The Tree Register of the British Isles has lots more data, I think of over 200.000 individual trees of over 1000 species. They have rather many good heightmeasurements, especially of the taller species like Douglas fir, grand fir, Sitka spruce, giant sequoia, etc.

About the trees in Spain: they indeed are very tall, especially when thinking central Spain is hot and dry in summer, so these trees are growing in very well watered locations.
This also can be seen by the huge giant sequoias, the largest of them already has a cbh of 14.8 metre (48.55 feet) with a height of 46 m (151 feet) and must be one of the largest trees in volume in Europe. As this tree cannot be older than 160 years this is quite remarkable.

The northwest of Spain and Portugal is cooler and much wetter in summer and grows a lot of tall exotic Eucalypts, tallest known trees in Europe now.


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Re: Tall trees measured in Spain

Post by dbhguru » Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:17 am


Thanks for the excellent summary you've provided us on describing the state of big tree documentation throughout Europe. It appears to me like Monumental Trees is the leader of the emerging groups. We certainly want to support you in any way we can.

As many who read the BBS posts have come to understand, our emphasis on tree height in NTS has been a long term effort to redress past deficiencies in measuring methodology. We know what the deficiencies are, and more or less, how they came about. We have a massive amount of information on the BBS and archived in the website (courtesy of super Ed). However, it is now time for us to move forward and concentrate on better circumference and crown spread measuring methods, especially the former, courtesy of our focus on the multi versus single-stem issue. But despite the apparent simplicity of stretching a tape around a trunk, this is not a simple undertaking. Distinguishing single from the multi-stem forms where trunks have been pressed together and bark grown over the points of contact is more challenging than measuring tree height, which with laser and clinometer is a pretty simple process, and even where it isn't, we have plenty of ways to proceed that are well thought out and well described. Consequently, we can correct past height errors quickly, but resolving issues concerning the status of a tree or tree form with multiple trunks is fraught with opportunities for disagreement.

As part of the responsibilities of the AF National Cadre, Will Blozan just went through the National Register and flagged 121 species of questionable championship status. I expected that once given the green light he would speedily accomplish the task - an unleashed Will is a force of nature awesome to behold. Most entires that Will flagged are multiple stem specimens, some egregious misrepresentations of what championship status should connote. But looking to the national stage, Will's effort elicits a very big OUCH!! Things could get touchy. Some states are notorious for pushing multi-stem entries, and will be loathe to see their status diminished. There are big tree hunters out there who indefatigably roam the countryside and whose labors we don't want to lose. We love their enthusiasm and dedication, but they have to be redirected. They've gotten away far too long in their willingness to convert the National Register into a multi-stem popularity contest of absolutely no scientific import. That direction will now change.

Europe has many huge ancient trees that, I expect, represent every form the constituent species can take. This suggests to me a cooperative effort between MT and AF-NTS to research better methods for measuring the variant forms in ways that make comparisons more meaningful (e.g. ways of choosing the largest stem of a clump). Perfecting pith tracings for the ancient trees that have undergone changes in profile due to coppicing over literally centuries will be a real challenge, but we can't ignore it forever. Ever since Don launched the campaign to legitimize pith tracings, there has been no putting the genie back in the bottle. Don pushed the envelope, and rightly so. Maybe the time is now right to give it another push. What do you and Kouta think?

Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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