The longevity of certain trees is legendary. This is the case with Methusalah. No, we are not talking about the biblical character. It is a tree in the White Mountains. The oldest tree in the world that is around 5,000 years old. Belongs to Art Pinus Longaeva. Other amazing specimens have been around for millennia. Scientists wonder how these trees slow down aging and what we can learn from the world’s old trees.
Another example: the Ginkgo biloba
Another surprising tree is the Ginkgo biloba. It is almost a living fossil. It has hardly changed since its release 270 million years ago. It can reach 3,000 years. It has been found that this species can escape aging. How it works? After hundreds of years, their growth, leaf size, photosynthetic capacity and seed quality were comparable to those of young trees. In this context, an article was published in the magazine “Trends in Plant Science”. The biologist Sergi Munné-Bosch talks about signs of senescence in long-lived trees. He says that they can be almost imperceptible to humans, which doesn’t mean that they are immortal.
Munné-Bosch emphasizes the same. He is a professor of plant physiology and head of the ANTIOX research group at the University of Barcelona. You live long, yes. They have many mechanisms to significantly reduce the wear and tear of aging, “he explains.
But trees also experience physiological stress associated with senescence. “Of course you have limits,” says Munné-Bosch. There are physical and mechanical limitations that limit their ability to live indefinitely. “
Difficult to follow
It is difficult to examine trees with such a long lifespan. So little is known about how the senescence process works. Finding enough old trees to study can be challenging. “It is very difficult to find two trees that are between two and five millennia old,” says Munné-Bosch. “You don’t have to worry about aging because you have other things that worry you more,” he says.
Because of its extreme lifespan, there is another problem in studying its aging process. It has to be done in a much longer time frame than scientists are used to. To see the effects in real time, they would have to do studies that would last hundreds, if not thousands, of years. “We invented the measurement of time as humans. It doesn’t matter at all for a millennial tree,” says Munné-Bosch.
Not that different
Trees only decrease their probability of death by aging in different ways. They divide the risk into complex industry structures. Or they let new sprouts grow from tree trunks that consist of 90% non-living biomass. But the stress associated with aging is low, but ultimately prevents immortality. «In some aspects, time can be seen as a kind of stress. Life is stressful and this will lead to death very slowly, “he says.
It is important to examine how they prolong senescence. Other disciplines such as medicine can use this in different ways. “We can learn a lot from them. For example, aspects of regenerative medicine are based on mechanisms that have already developed in the old trees of the world.” Knowing that even the oldest species cannot live forever means that “we.” maybe not as different as we think, “says Munné-Bosch.