A couple of red pines in northeastern New Brunswick are the oldest of their kind in Atlantic Canada, by far, according to a professor and the New Brunswick Museum.
“These trees have lived 300 years,” said Ben Phillips, the conservation scientist at the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and a professor at Mount Allison University.
Stephen Clayden, a research curator and the head of the botany and microbiology section at the New Brunswick Museum, said that is very old for a red pine.
“Typically they’re overcome by disease or windthrow before they reach those kind of ages,” said Clayden.
Red pines normally live for 150 to 200 years.
The museum organized the scientific event, called Biota NB, two weeks ago. It was during that event that the trees were found.
The annual event, formerly called “BioBlitz,” attracted about 40 scientists from across North America.
They went to the Nepisiguit protected natural area in northeastern New Brunswick.
Phillips refers to the pair of split stem red pine trees as “a double-double.”
“They have strong genetics that allow them to live very long. And because these trees were spared by the chain saw and these two old, double-stem red pine that are 300 years old, growing up there all that time have been allowed to stay there, they’ve seeded down slope,” said Phillips.
“They’ve seeded a whole stand of red pines now.”
The two trees were found just metres apart.
Phillips is a dendrochronologist, a scientist who studies tree rings.
He said by extracting a sample of wood from the trees and analyzing what is in those rings, he can find out more about past environmental conditions.
“We can learn about the past through the trees that way,” said Phillips.
He also said there are many species that rely on old growth trees for life, in a symbiotic relationship.
“So by having these old trees here, who knows what else could be around the area,” said Phillips.
In 2005, Phillips discovered the world’s oldest living red spruce tree in Fundy National Park. That red spruce is still alive and is estimated to be more than 465 years old.
Wilderness camp used as a lab
The Biota NB event, held from June 25 to July 10, hosted scientists of varying disciplines.
Phillips said these scientists were looking at various types of fungus, insects, fish and birds.
“When you walk into a forest you see the trees, you see the understorey plants, you might see a mushroom here or there,” he said.
“When you start digging around there is just an entire, you know, basically unknown world or organisms, right down to microscopic things in the soil, up to, you know, cougar and bears and huge old trees.”
Most attending scientists camped in tents and used a wilderness camp as a lab.
Clayden said there are likely to be many more scientific discoveries as researchers analyze their data.
Scientists will be researching the area again next summer.