The loneliest tree in the world gave hope to humanity! Searching for answers to two important questions…


It is the loneliest tree in the world… It lives on an untouched island 700 kilometers south of New Zealand.

It does not have any distinguishing features for those who look from afar. It has a bush-like structure, dark green leaves and a strong stem.

located in the subantarctic region of northern Antarctica Campbell IslandThere is a distance of exactly 222 kilometers between this 9-meter-tall tree in the middle of Turkey and its closest neighbor living in the Auckland Islands. Lots of grassy plants nearby, but no trees. In fact, there are no other trees on the island.

pine family Sitka spruce This is a type of tree. It’s about 100 years old and according to the Guinness Book of Records it is the “farthest tree in the world”. (However, the book emphasizes that there is no universally accepted definition of what is a tree and what is not.)


But technically, this tree shouldn’t be here. This tree, whose natural habitat is literally on the other side of the world, opens the door to very important progress for scientists who conduct climate change research.

How Does? Let’s explain now…

Sitka spruce, whose Latin name is Picea sitchensis, is a coniferous, coniferous tree that can grow up to 100 meters in height and 700 years in life. The natural habitat of this tree, which takes its name from Sitka, a settlement in Alaska, is the west coast of the USA and Canada. Sitka spruce is used as a raw material in furniture and instrument production in European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand.


As a matter of fact, the world’s loneliest tree has not just entered the agenda of scientists. He has long been attracting attention thanks to his survival skills.

But climate scientist Dr. That’s not why Jocelyn Turnbull is interested in this tree.

Turnbull, head of radiocarbon studies at the New Zealand Institute of Geology and Nuclear Sciences (GNS Science New Zealand), conducts important research within the Antarctic Science Platform.

The Antarctic Science Platform is a government-sponsored research project that aims to better understand Antarctica’s importance in the global system.

What Turnbull and his team have done is, using radiocarbon measurements, Southern Ocean To find the source of fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions on the region and to try to understand the role of the region as a carbon sink.

Speaking to the ABC channel and The Guardian newspaper in Australia, Turnbull stated that the Southern Ocean is a very important place to analyze the carbon dioxide exchange, since it is open to westerly winds and there is no land to slow the speed of the wind. :


“This windy weather brings with it very large volume movements in the ocean water. It makes the water in the depths rise to the surface and mix. So this part of the ocean can absorb more carbon than other parts of the ocean that are not so dynamic.”

The loneliest tree in the world has given hope to humanity Searching for answers to two important questions...

Since there are no people living on the island, sea lions can roam freely.


According to scientists, roughly 10 percent of the carbon dioxide we have released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is absorbed by the Southern Ocean. But the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide may be changing, according to Turnbull. This is the reason why this research was carried out.


Turnbull summed up their purpose of embarking on this journey with the words, “We really want to understand. Because this tells us what the future holds”.

At this point, there are two important questions the team asks: First, if the carbon sinks are “filled”, will there be a huge increase in the rate of global warming? Second, if we understand how these sinks work, can we remove more carbon from the atmosphere and slow global warming?

Scientists call carbon sinks for natural or man-made systems that absorb and store carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The most common type of pharynx we all know is forests. Besides forests, soil, peatlands, permafrost (permafrost) soil layers, ocean waters and carbonate sediments in the deep parts of the oceans are other known carbon sinks.


“Okay, but what does the world’s loneliest tree have to do with the ocean’s carbon dioxide capacity?” We hear you ask.

Namely, to understand whether there has been a change in the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, Turnbull and his team need to compare the past and present of measurements of radiocarbon and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere around the Southern Ocean.


But it’s a very difficult situation because, in Turnbull’s words, “We weren’t collecting samples from the Southern Ocean 30 years ago. We don’t have a chance today to go back in time and get air samples from 30 years ago.”

However, trees keep these records in age rings on their trunks.

Turnbull explains the importance of age rings, “When plants perform photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and use it to grow their structures. Thus, the carbon in the air settles in the rings of the trees. Every year, a visible ring forms. You can cut these rings and measure the radiocarbon inside them. This way, you can go back and see what’s going on in the Southern Ocean. and we can understand what has changed.”



But why this tree?

Stating that they need to go to the farthest point of the Southern Ocean in order to make the most accurate and robust measurements, Trunbull said, “When you look at the world map, you can see that there is not much land in that area.” The furthest tree the team could find was the Sitka spruce on Campbell Island, located at 52 degrees south.

In other words, Turnbull and his team had to make use of the Sitka spruce, as the geography was not very wooded. “It grows faster than anything else in the area. The rings are bigger and easier to tell apart and track records,” Turnbull said of the tree.

The loneliest tree in the world has given hope to humanity Searching for answers to two important questions...

Using a hand drill, Turnbull sampled a 5 millimeter diameter piece from the center of the tree, but the results have not yet been published.


The exact age of the Sitka spruce, the star of Turnbull’s research, is unclear. However, it is believed that the tree was planted on Campbell Island around 1907 by Lord Ranfurly, the then governor-general of New Zealand.

For this reason, the spruce, sometimes referred to as the “Ranfurly tree”, has survived for so long, which is explained by many due to the “pristine” nature of the island.

Emphasizing this point, Turnbull said, “The penguins are walking around your feet while you are wandering around the island. Albatrosses fly over your head and watch you. Compared to other parts of the world, we can say that this place is untouched.”


Before the Sitka spruce, the title of “the loneliest tree in the world” belonged to the Tenere Tree.

This tree lived alone in an area of ​​400 kilometers in the part of the Sahara Desert within the borders of Niger. Tenere Tree, whose species is acacia, was an important milestone for those who wanted to find their way in the desert and a symbol of resilience with its survival in the desert climate.

However, in 1973, a Libyan truck driver following an old caravan route was hit, causing the Tenere tree to fall and die.

The Tenere Tree is currently on display at the Niger National Museum.

The loneliest tree in the world has given hope to humanity Searching for answers to two important questions...

Turnbull describes the island as a ‘global treasure’


Back to the Sitka spruce… Some scientists consider this tree, which lives so far from its natural environment, as an “invasive species” and argues that it has no business on Campbell Island.

While botanists and scientists are engaged in heated debate over the tree’s fate, Turnbull pointed out that the tree’s benefits go far beyond his own research.

Stating that the tree has been helping loners like himself for a century, Turnbull said, “A princess who escaped from Scotland, whalers, sailors, research convoys, and shipwrecked people have all taken shelter in it. The research parties living on this island have even cut a little from the top of the Sitka spruce and made a Christmas tree. I’ve heard of it,” he said.

This is not the first scientific study to use the Sitka spruce from Campbell Island and its stem rings. In 2018, scientists using this tree also determined that the Anthropocene Period, which is called the “Human Age” and defined as the period when human activities started to cause irreversible damage to the world, started in 1965. 1965 is known as the year when above-ground atomic bomb tests were banned. The rings of the tree indicate a peak in the amount of radiocarbon recorded before these tests were banned. This is a very important finding, because the distance between the test points and Campbell Island shows that the impact of the bombs extends all over the world. When we look at the 1960s in general, we see a period in which modern environmentalism spread rapidly with the influence of hippie culture, globalization and industrialization accelerated, economic growth brought population explosion and the effects of people on the environment increased. This period is also called the “Great Acceleration”.