Scientists hope ‘world’s loneliest tree’ will help answer climate questions

Eva Corlett

It is regarded as the “loneliest tree in the world” but the Sitka spruce on uninhabited Campbell Island has been keeping good company of late – with a team of New Zealand researchers who believe it could help unlock climate change secrets.

The nine-metre tall spruce holds the Guinness World Record title for the “remotest tree” on the planet. It is the sole tree on the shrubby, windswept island, 700 kilometres south of New Zealand in the Southern Ocean. It’s the only tree for 222km around; its nearest neighbour grows on the Auckland Islands.

Prior to the Campbell Island spruce, the Tree of Ténéré in Niger was said to be the most isolated tree on the planet, until it was killed by a driver in 1973. It is believed the Sitka spruce was planted by Lord Ranfurly, New Zealand’s then governor, in the early 1900s – hence its nickname the Ranfurly tree.

Studies have not been able to confirm its exact age, however, and Guinness World Records notes that although it is popularly referred to as the world’s loneliest tree, “there is no universally recognised precise definition of what constitutes a ‘tree’”…