After precise measurements were taken, a 48.6 meter spruce, located in Veriora Rural Municipality, Põlva County, was recognized as Estonia’s tallest tree. Aand as an added bonus, a record setting 46.6 meter pine was located only a few hundred meters away from the spruce.
The previous record holders in Estonia were a 44.1 meter spruce and a 42.4 meter pine. Hendrik Relve, a naturalist who is well-acquainted with the biggest trees in Estonia, dubbed the new record-breaking trees as the giants of Ootsipalu Valley, since the trees are growing in a hollow, but their tips reach the same height as several surrounding trees. According to the stand descriptions, the trees are 133 years old, and Relve believes the number may well reach 140-160 years.
The honor of discovering Estonia’s new tallest trees belongs to RMK South-East Region forest grower Kaarel Tiganik, who has been well acquainted with the state forest in Põlva County for many years. “The area is home to many beautiful tall trees, and this particular spruce caught my eye a while ago,” Tiganik said. “When I was assessing a cleaning two years ago, in Ootsipalu, the idea of officially measuring the tree came to me. At first, we measured it using an altimeter; however, in order to obtain a precise measurement for such a tall tree, we requested the help of researchers from the Estonian University of Life Sciences. I was personally hoping that the height of the spruce would be at least 45 meters; but 48.6 meters was truly a surprise.
Researchers Ahto Kangur and Harli Jürgenson, from the Estonian University of Life Sciences, measured the tree using an electronic tachymeter. “Measuring is done by pointing a laser towards different spots at the tip of the tree, attempting to find the highest point, from which the device receives a reflection. The machine then marks the highest point found vertically to the ground. By then measuring the distance between the two points, we are able to determine the precise height of the tree,” Kangur explained. Prior to measurement with the electronic tachymeter, the height of the tree was assessed using aero-LiDAR data.
According to Andres Sepp, forest manager for the RMK Põlva County Forest District, after the spruce had been measured, three pines located in close proximity to it were examined as well. “The first of the three trees was growing right next to the spruce and was taller than the previous tallest pine located in Järvselja. After measuring a couple of other old crop trees left growing on the clearcut, it became clear that the records were continuing to fall,” he recalled.
The researchers plan to return, to conduct additional measurements on the trees. RMK, in turn, will restrict cutting in the area, to prevent the surrounding forest from becoming too thin and keep the wind from downing the trees.
Forest managers and researchers believe that one reason why so many record breaking trees are growing in one location in Põlva County is that the trees are located on a basin-like surface, partially on a slope and partially in a hollow. Their location offers natural protection against strong storms and winds, and ensures that water and nutrients flow to the bottom of the hollow, supplying the trees with sufficient water and nutrients.
Editor: M. Oll