Would you say “yes” to a 5,000 year lifespan if the only rule was that you couldn’t move from one particular spot? This is reality for many of the tree species around the world which live for thousands of years at a time. The most well-known species of tree that lives for so long is the Bristlecone Pines which have lived for millennia’s in the North American desert. In fact, there are much older trees such as the King’s Holly which has been around for what scientists estimated to be 43,000 years! Here at Ashley Tree Services, we’re going to give you our take on why trees are able to live for so long…
In order to understand the science behind this, we must acknowledge that most plants will age and die just like animals and humans and this is known as senescence. Professor Howard Thomas wrote a piece called The Essence of Senescence and in his studies, he likens the aging of plants as a response to environmental stress- however instead of this being heat, cold or drought, the stress from the environment is simply the passage of time. This means that the techniques used by trees to resist aging are avoidance, resilience and adaption.
It is said that one key to a long lifespan is long living stem cells as these are necessary for the continued generation of new cells overall. A report comparing the lifespan of plants to animals stated that the roots cells in plants are said to be less sensitive to DNA damage than animals and hold original DNA available to replace any damaged cells. Although animals do the same, it seems plants have optimised this technique to allow them to live for hundreds of years.
The second key to long life is modular development. To explain what this is, we must first look at or picture a tree in our minds. It is easy to notice that the branches are produced at the top of the tree with a developmental pattern repeating itself. Each of this module has a steam, a leaf and a bud which contains a growth centre. Underground, the same thing is also happening with the roots, with new branches being produced continuously, known as modular development.
Finally, the last key to longevity and potential immortality in trees is the ability to go dormant. This is when a tree will temporarily shut down, decrease growth and limit metabolic activity. For animals, this is similar to hibernation. In winter when plants lose their leaves, this is a state of dormancy. In a way we can say they are slowing down biological time and potentially slowing down their aging, allowing them to live for longer.
Who knows how long trees will be able to live if they continue to advance their survival techniques over the next hundred years! Sadly not all trees will manage to make it to the end of their lifespan so if you’re in need of a tree arborist, get in contact with the top best tree surgeons Manchester has to offer today!