The world's tallest tropical tree has been discovered at the heart of the Malaysian Island of Borneo, in the state of Sabah. This record-breaking specimen towers 94.1m (nearly 309ft) and its canopy reaches a diameter of 40.3m (132ft).
In June 2016, a team of scientists had already announced they had found the tallest tropical tree on our planet. The specimen they had recorded – a yellow meranti – reached a height of 89.5m, and was also found in Malaysia. This record was not destined to last long however.
On 10 November 2016, Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University announced that not only had he found the more impressive, 94.1m tall, tropical tree but he had also identified 49 trees with a greater height than the yellow meranti discovered five months ago – all exceed the 90m mark.
New technologies to find the tree
The exact species of this new giant tropical tree is not known, although it belongs to the Shorea genus. The scientists have been able to observe it first hand from a helicopter, after spending a lot of time mapping the Sabah forest using lidar technology on board planes. This technique uses lasers to measure the distance to a target.
Their research allowed them to collect a large amount of data including tree height but also canopy and animal biodiversity.
Speaking to environmental news website Mongabay, Asner said: "This technique relies on the 500,000 laser shots per second that we fire out of the bottom of the plane as we fly, which provides a very detailed 3D view of the forest canopy down to the ground level. The same data are what we use to calculate how much carbon is stored throughout tropical forests."
With his team, he now plans to visit all 50 trees to conduct complementary studies and learn more about their species.
Despite its impressive height, the scientists acknowledge that these trees remain smaller than the tallest non-tropical tree on Earth, a coast redwood in California's Redwood National Park which towers 115m.