This release is available in Spanish.
Due to the large size of the olive trees in the Mediterranean region, many experts have claimed that they are millennia old but "there had never been a scientific study to verify this," as explained to SINC by the ecologist Bernat Claramunt from the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF).
A team from this centre has now analysed the ages of the famous olive trees and the oldest found is 627 years of age. Claramunt states that "this is one of the oldest specimens recorded in the Mediterranean ecosystem and on the European Continent."
Lead by Jordi Martnez-Vilalta, the CREAF researchers employed classic dendrochronology methods based on the analysis of growth rings in the tree trunks. The study has been published in the Dendrochronologia journal.
The scientists analysed 14 olive trees (Olea europea) from the coastal region of Montsi in Catalonia. As Claramunt explains, "we use a technique that allows for the extraction of a small cylindrical piece of the trunk which goes from the bark to the core of the tree. This sample contains the life history of the tree." They also studied entire sections of the trunk that had been previously carved out.
Obtaining results from trunks is not easy. Claramunt warns that "there are times when the rings are hardly visible or they do not follow a known time pattern. The olive tree could also be too twisted."
The data from this study can also be useful when reconstructing the climatic conditions of the last few centuries. "As well as dating these olive trees, we have shown that this type of tree can be used for dendrochronological analysis," outlines the expert.
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FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology