World's tallest tropical tree is taller than the Statue of Liberty

Talk about seeing the forest for the trees: an ecologist said that he has found the world’s 50 tallest tropical trees.

Located on the island of Borneo, the tallest of the very big trees stands at almost 309 feet tall— impressively, that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty by just a few feet, measured from the bottom of her pedestal to the top of the torch.

The find was made by Gregory Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institute of Science, reported Mongabay, a science and conservation news site. The other 49 trees, all also located on the Bornean state of Sabah (a part of Malaysia), are all taller than 295 feet.

(Robin Martin)

"The 94 meter [nearly 309 ft] tree was standing quietly in a part of the Bornean terrain that rarely, if ever, gets visited by scientists," Asner told in an email. "This made me think about how much of the tropics remains unexplored and unknown to science, even in areas undergoing and near to clearing for agriculture, mining, and other destructive uses."

The huge tree's crown spans about 132 feet in diameter.


Asner also said that some of the trees he found are susceptible to threats from people.

"Many are in protected areas, but about 10 of the 50 are actually in landscapes that could be cleared in the future," he wrote. "So there is a need to protect these amazing and majestic, long-lived species."

The Carnegie Institute of Science’s Airborne Observatory, a plane that uses lasers to make measurements, was used to find the Lady Liberty-sized tree.

Asner said he'll keep looking for taller trees.

"Over the years, the rate at which the record has been broken [has] naturally decreased because finding progressively taller trees gets less and less likely," he wrote. "However, we also think there is a physiological limit to how tall trees will grown, and 94 m is certainly pushing that limit. That said, I hope to find the absolute tallest tropical tree sometime in my career via my airborne observatory and our extensive field program."

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger