50 tallest tropical trees in Sabah
Published on: Thursday, November 10, 2016
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Kota Kinabalu: The world's tallest tropical tree at 94.1 metres has been discovered in the State, in the Danum Valley to be precise. It is as tall as five sperm whales stacked one after another. That's not all – all the top 50 tallest tropical trees in the world are also to be found in the vicinity.

The findings were announced by Prof. Dr Gregory Asner (pic), leader of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), in a keynote address at the two-day International Conference on The Heart of Borneo at Magellan Sutera, Wednesday.

The confirmation serves as the icing on the cake in the State Government's efforts under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to dedicate up to 30 per cent of Sabah's land mass to Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) for future generations and should easily establish Sabah as the unrivalled ecotourism rainforest destination.

Prof. Asner's stunning discovery was based on high resolution 3 Dimensional mapping of the forest which CAO carried out in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department since the beginning of this year to understand the structure and quality of Sabah's forests, carbon stock and biodiversity pattern aimed at helping to improve land use.

Prof. Asner revealed how the search for this supersize tree over the years ended in Sabah.

"Passing through a second layer data at a finer resolution, this is the thing I really want to tell you about," he said.

"Every place I go to in the world and I have been everywhere with this Airborne Observatory, I am always looking for the tallest tree on the planet, at least in the tropical part. And lo and behold, in this process we found this guy, a little red dot sitting on a hill, and because the laser system is extremely accurate our error at the top of the tree is 15cm," Prof. Asner said.

"Because it's so resolute we are able to see that this tree was 94.1m tall plus or minus 15cm which makes it the tallest tree in the tropics on our planet !"

"The crown happens to be 40 metres in diameter (131ft).

"To give you some sense of how big this is I googled the Sperm whale with a peak length measured at 20m (65.6ft) and wow, that's really big. That's the scale: we need five of the biggest Sperm whales on the planet to reach the height of a single tree.

"That's how epic this tree is," he said.

Since the discovery was too good to be true, he and a few colleagues mounted a secret mission to go to see this tree to ensure the news was not leaked before the Heart of Borneo conference .

"Here is a shot of it," he told the audience, while displaying his laser slides.

"You can really see the crown is about two to four times wider than all the other trees in the area.

These other trees are 70 plus metres tall. It's this guy that's is sticking out at 94.1 metres," Prof Asner pointed to the tree captured in infrared.

"This is that tree in laser imaging, the red tree is our biggest tree in the tropics. And yet it's surrounded, engulfed by trees that are 70 to 80 metres and lots of them, in fact thousands and thousands of them but this guy is the largest, and you know where it is?" he asked in suspense.

"Danum Valley!" he said, prompting applause at the packed Magellan Ballroom.

"That's Sam (Director of Forestry), I want to say that I didn't give you the tallest tree in the tropics.

I give you the tallest 50 trees in the tropics. We found 49 more that broke the record," Asner said.

He showed a histogram of the heights of all the 50 that are record breakers and their whereabouts: 33 are in Danum Valley, 10 are in Tabin, one is in Malaiu Basin, and that the one that David Coomes found in Maliau Basin last year at 89.5 m (Yellow Meranti) we got it at 90.1m .

"So either it grew half a metre or he's wrong and I am right, and we found 10 in the UNDP area that's being worked on for conservation management," Prof Asner detailed the whereabouts of his top 50 tallest.

Meanwhile, Sam who is Forestry Director, said the discovery of these "super giants" is something to be proud "and opens up a "glimpse of the wealth and depth of Sabah's bioodiversity wealth" of Sabah.

"I think it has given us a good early result. You have a grouping of one super giant at 94.1m with a crown diameter of 40m – almost half a football field surrounded by its siblings of extraordinary tall trees," Mannan said.

"You know these tall trees in Danum may become a new tourism product for adventure type tourists who are willing to walk that far, spend a night there to admire those thousands of massively tall trees and enhance the quality of tourism in Danum because in terms of height, it is not far from the tallest trees in the world like California's Redwood."


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