Trees are some of the most amazing living things on this planet! They come in all shapes and sizes. Some bear fruit or nuts and some bless us with the most beautiful leafy art shows in the Fall. As if this isn’t enough to make you love trees, they also keep humans alive. That’s right! Without trees, humans would be wiped out!
Some trees can live for a very long time. Methuselah, a bristlecone pine, is the oldest tree in the world at over 5,000 years old! Another bristlecone pine recently discovered may beat it out as the oldest tree in the world by a couple decades. While some individual trees hold the distinction of being the oldest, there are also many ancient forests that have been on this planet for a respectable amount of time. Below are 8 of the oldest forests in the world.
Tongass National Forest, Alaska
This temperate rain forest in Alaska is a gorgeous wonder measuring 16.8 million acres! This fact alone makes it remarkable, but it is also one of the most ancient forests. Some parts of the forest are an estimated several thousands of years old.
Many of the trees are over 800 years old. The Tongass also makes up about one third of all old-growth temperate rainforests on the planet. The National Geographic described Tongass as an, “exceptionally rich ecosystem that holds more organic matter – more biomass – per acre than any other, including tropical jungles.”
Tongass is also home to a rich, diverse wildlife that includes wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, grizzly bears, and all five species of Pacific Salmon.
Daintree Rainforest, Australia
The Daintree Rainforest covers approximately 1,200 square kilometres, and is the largest stand of tropical rainforest in Australia. This beautiful, ancient forest is an estimated 180 million years old!
It also supports thousands of species of birds, reptiles, and marsupials. 30 percent of Australia’s frog population lives here, as does 18 percent of all bird species and 65 percent of butterfly and bat species.
It’s also home to over 12,000 different insect species! Simply astounding!
Waipoua Forest, New Zealan
This natural wonder was almost wiped out when European settlers arrived in the 19th century. The settlers cut them down by the thousands to make ships and homes.
Thankfully in 1952, Waipoua was designated a sanctuary and has been left untouched since. Fortunately, the ancient kauri trees, a coniferous tree, survived the mass destruction.
The oldest kauri tree, lovingly known as Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) is an estimated 2,300 years old and is pictured above. Yes, that’s a grown man standing in front of it.
Ancient Bristecone Pine Forest, California, U.S.
Not at all like the pine forests you are used to seeing, this unusual forest is located adjacent to Sequoia National Forest. It stands at an elevation of 10,000 feet and contains some of the oldest trees in the world.
One of these ancient trees is Methuselah, that I mentioned in the introduction. Methuselah, and possibly another unnamed bristlecone pine, are the oldest trees in the world. Just to give you an idea of how many years 5000 years is, the venerable Methuselah was alive when the first Egyptian pyramids were built! For its protection, Methuselah’s exact location within the forest is kept secret to protect it from…well…us.
Yakushima Forest, Japan
Yakushima Forest is also a temperate rainforest located on Yakushima Island. The forest was registered a World natural Heritage Site in 1933 by UNESCO. The forest has some incredible flora and which ranges from subtropical species to bamboo grasslands and high moors.
Far and away the most amazing features are the Yakusugi trees, or Japanese cedars. Some have been living in this forest for over 7,000 years! This magical forest was the inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s animated feature film, Princess Mononoke, and is so beloved by the people of Japan that the forest was recreated in a garden on the mainland of Japan.
Tarkine Forest, Tasmania, Australia
This temperate rainforest is the largest in Australia and the second largest on the earth! Contained within this amazing forest are rivers, moorlands, mountain ranges, caves, woodlands, beaches and coastal heath.
The most remarkable feature of the forest are the Huon Pines, which are the second oldest living trees on earth. As a testament to the destruction humans can wreak on some of the world’s most valuable forests, more than three fourths of the rainforests in Australia have been destroyed.
Thankfully, there are many groups of environmentalists working tirelessly to protect Tarkine forest from logging and mining.
Bialowieza Forest, Belarus and Poland
Another World Heritage Site forest, Bialowieza Forest is one of Europe’s last remaining ole-growth forests. At only 580 square miles it is one of the smallest forests on this list. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in its amazing ecosystem!
This amazing forest has over 250 bird species, 59 species of mammals, 7 reptile species, 13 amphibian species and over 12,000 invertebrate species! Most importantly, it is home to the European Bison, which are practically extinct.
The last few remaining bison were set free in the forest after living in a few zoos. They now number around 1000! It is absolutely imperative that this natural wonder be preserved!
Kakamega Forest, Kenya, Africa
The smallest forest on the list, Kakamega forest is just under 90 square miles. Although it is small now, it was once the largest old-growth forest in the world. It is estimated that almost half of the forest was destroyed within the last 40 years due to overuse of resources, war and human development.
What does remain of the forest is an incredibe diversity of animals and plants. It is called home by 700 year old fig trees, many monkey species and over 300 species of birds. Let’s all hope that this magical place is around for many years to come!
Walpole Wilderness Area
The Walpole Wilderness Area is a conservation reserve in Western Australia. It is comprised of 15 National Parks and Nature Reserves. This wilderness area features a number of different environments, like wetlands, coastlines, and old growth forests. It is also a site of indigenous cultural heritage.
Dudhatoli is region found in the middle of the Himalayan mountain range. It’s the site of 5 rivers and dozens of streams that help keep the old growth forests green year round. The forest itself suffered a great deal of damage from overlogging that is still recovering, but old growth forests still remain in this region.