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In ideal conditions, Sitka fir trees can reach heights of up to 100 meters. But the sub-Antarctic island in the Pacific Ocean isn’t exactly known for its beautiful weather. It rains an average of 325 days a year with only about 600 hours of sunshine. “Total misery. “There are always low clouds and they keep falling constantly,” Crompton says. However, the tree is healthy – even if it has grown only ten meters in height to this day. “It’s compact and grows in width because it’s constantly being whipped by the wind.”
In the pictures, it is as if the tree is not alone, because it is surrounded by a lot of green. However, the neighboring plants are shrubs, herbs, ferns and heathers, but not trees.
The fact that spruce never shines in its full splendor may have something to do with scientists who have been researching the native plants and animals on Campbell Island for many years. Rumor has it that they tip off each year to use as a Christmas tree, says Aaron Ross, whose parents have toured the area with their company, Heritage Expeditions, since 1984. Today he runs the business with his brother.
The father was a botanist, and the family’s stated goal was to raise people’s awareness of and protect nature through responsible expeditions. “The isolated Sitka spruce is physically inconspicuous, but it is important culturally,” Ross said. Because the researchers found that the samples taken could represent a possible sign of the beginning of the Anthropocene – a term for a new geological age in which humans had a major impact on nature.
Meanwhile, the whole of Campbell Island is an important nature reserve, which every year attracts animal and plant lovers and scientists alike to the sub-Antarctic region. British botanist Joseph Hooker once said that the island had plants “unique outside the tropics.” The fauna is also impressive: many rare bird species live on Campbell Island, many of which are endemic. “Campbell Island is a treasure for the whole world. New Zealand is fortunate enough to be their agent,” says Ross. The treasure also includes a lonely little tree that defies all adversity – and still poses mysteries.
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