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Experts aim to protect one of Brazil’s giant emblematic tree species

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Experts aim to protect one of Brazil’s giant emblematic tree species

Experts aim to protect one of Brazil’s giant emblematic tree species

byJenny Gonzales

  • The giant red angelim (Dinizia excelsa Ducke), a tree species that can reach 60 meters (196 feet) in height, should be protected for its symbolic and ecological value, experts and state environmental agencies in Brazil have advised.
  • Found in several Brazilian states, the species is being threatened by encroaching illegal mining and deforestation that is reaching even protected areas. Authorities in the states of Para and Amapá are making efforts to ban the cutting of giant angelims.
  • Experts point out that beyond legislation, states also need to tackle illegal activities and protect the giant trees by improving inspections on the ground.

“What makes these trees so special is still a great mystery, and it takes time and studies to unravel,” Eric Gorgens said. The professor of spatial and environmental analysis at the Universidade Federal dos Vales do Jequitinhonha e Mucuri (UFVJM) was talking about the giant red angelim (Dinizia excelsa Ducke), an Amazonian tree with heights of up to 60 meters (196 feet) found in several rainforest areas of Brazil and Guyana. But it was in the Jari River Basin, between the Brazilian states of Pará and Amapá, that angelins up to almost 90 meters high (295 feet) were discovered a few years ago, with Gorgens part of that expedition. Until then, scientists hadn’t thought trees that tall existed in the Amazon.

“The tropical climate brings many difficulties to the survival of trees due to the aggressive environment, high humidity, strong winds and favorability to pests and diseases,” Gorgens added. “Despite this scenario, the tallest is between 400 and 600 years old, 88.5 meters [290 feet] tall and capable of sequestering carbon equivalent of a 1-hectare (2.4-acre) forest with an average canopy of 45 meters [147 feet].”

With the United Nations COP30 to be held in 2025 in Belém, Pará, efforts to legally protect giant trees have gained momentum. In Pará, the Institute for Forestry and Biodiversity Development (Ideflor-Bio) aims to reduce the area of the Paru State Forest (Flota da Paru)which hosts the tallest known red angelim and is the world’s third-largest sustainable-use tropical forest reserveat 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) — and create a fully protected state park over an area of about 562,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) to help preserve the giant angelims.

Red angelims of diferent sizes populate the Paru State Forest, which is monitored and managed by the state of Pará. The legally protected area, however, is threatened by encroaching mining and deforestation. Image courtesy of Havita Rigamonti / Imazon / Ideflor-Bio.

Currrently, the Paru State Forest has a conservation unit (CU) status that allows for sustainable forest management activities, such as harvesting of timber and non-timber products and ecotourism. “Our intention is to guarantee the safety of the largest tree in the Amazon and Latin America,” said Crisomar Lobato, director of biodiversity management at Ideflor-Bio.

The state environmental agency has been doing expeditions to the northwest of the Paru State Forest, home to the largest giant. Ideflor-Bio’s most recent expedition happened between May 16 and May 29, when scientists collected information on local flora, fauna, soil and topography. “We need as much data as possible to try to change the giant angelim’s protection status,” Lobato told Mongabay. “We are counting on COP30 to help us with [the protection of] the giant angelims.”

According to Lobato, Ideflor-Bio will forward the proposal to the Pará government this coming fall. If implemented, the new CU will be legally protected.

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