Environment East Gippsland, an Australian environment group based in Victoria, has radiocarbon-tested a felled old-growth eucalypt and the result suggests the giant gum was at least 500 years old. The battle to save the old-growth forests of Brown Mountain in Victoria's far east has been waged by environmentalists since 1989. When another coupe was cut down early this year, logging opponents decided to send a sample of a felled tree to the University of Waikato in New Zealand for radiocarbon dating tests.
"Considering that ancient trees like these have been chainsawed down every day across south-east Australia, no-one has ever been able to give a definitive age on the trees," said Jill Redwood, of Environment East Gippsland, to
ABC News ABC News. "We just thought it would be really interesting to try and get an absolute age for these trees." The test results said there was an 84 per cent chance the tree was between 500 and 600 years old.
"Current forest managements practices are looking at harvesting on rotation times in the vicinity of 80 to 120 years with the perception that that's a particularly long period of time," said botanist Steve Mueck, "Now it is, I suppose, in the context of a human lifetime, but it is a very, very short period of time in comparison to the age in which many of the components that live in these forests can in fact get to in a natural system."
"We're finding trees of 13 and 14 metres around and it is hard to believe that they exist," said Redwood. "They have got the bulk of a blue whale. They are just the land giants of the planet.
"If this was a human artefact, it would be an incredibly precious antique, but because it is a tree they just think it can be cut down and sell it off for a song and most of it goes to wood chips.