After reading Darrin’s and Ed’s discussion about the tallest tropical trees (viewtopic.php?f=48&t=5186), I got the idea of doing a literature study about Araucaria hunsteinii (klinki pine), which is the tallest tropical tree in Ed’s table (from “The Tropical Rain Forest an Ecological Study” by Richards).
Gray’s paper (1975) is very interesting. Most importantly, the height of 88.9 m is a tape-drop measurement! Direct quotation from Gray (1975, p. 276):
The tallest A. hunsteinii [in Gray’s study, see below] was 78.7 m, which is a good deal less than the recorded maximum (88.9 m) which was measured in 1941 by a climber carrying a steel tape to the top (L. G. Cavanaugh, personal communication, 1974).
Gray conducted his own study in eight 50 x 50 m plots in the same Bulolo area but a considerable proportion of the Araucaria forests in the area had been harvested before the study. Womersley & McAdam (see below) wrote already in 1957: “The natural stands of the Bulolo Valley are being replaced with plantations of the same species”. Thus, it appears that the tallest trees were gone long since. In Gray’s study the trees were felled and measured lying on the ground.
In Gray’s paper there is a table showing the tallest reported heights: 5 records are at least 85 meters. However, some of them appear to be rounded estimations rather than measurements (this is also Gray’s opinion). Of the cited references, I got my hands on the following two:
- Havel, J. J. (1971): The Araucaria forests of New Guinea and their regenerative capacity. J. Ecol. 59, 203-14.
- Womersley & McAdam (1957): The forests and forest conditions in the territories of Papua and New Guinea.
According to Havel: “Araucarias of all sizes from seedlings to veterans 280 ft (85 m) tall are common [in a forest type].” Thus, likely only an estimation.
From Womersley & McAdam’s species description: “… a Klinki Pine to 280 feet in height has been measured.” He gives no description of the method.
I propose we accept the 88.9-m Araucaria hunsteinii as the all-time height record for tropical trees, as it is tape-drop measured. If we reject it only because it is over 70 years old, do we then accept that serious tree measurers in 2085 reject our measurements only because of their age?