Face-to-Face With the Giant Chinese Cypress Trees of Laos
Welcome back to the wilderness of Central Laos, get ready to follow us to Vietnam as well on the second part of our National Geographic expedition, where our team is engaged in a long-term effort to survey, analyze, and ultimately restore the critically endangered Chinese swamp cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis). (Catch up on earlier posts.)
This old-growth giant once covered vast swaths of East and Southeast Asia, but in 2006, after centuries of depredation, it was added to the IUCN Redlist.
The wood of the Glyptostrobus pensilis is a highly practical material resource for local people. The tree, commonly known as the Chinese or Asian swamp cypress, is one of the keystone species of an important forest land that provides protection for a diverse array of other plant and animal species—many of them endangered as well. And lest we forget a more global significance: Glyptostrobus pensilis forests are powerful agents of carbon-sequestration, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking the carbon away in the bodies of plants and animals, and the soil itself.
Tarzan’s-Eye View of the Forest
A truly crucial part of our team is the men from local villages in Central Laos who have been climbing these tall trees for generations. They usually climb to gather honey and wax produced by bees in hives built high up in the old-growth canopy.
Our team photographer, David McGuire, fitted out two veteran tree-climbers, Meud and Deng, with Go-Pro cameras on their hats. Below you can watch the first-person point-of-view video of what it is like to climb Chinese swamp cypress in Laos.
Meud and Deng climb barefoot to maximize their dexterity and grip; they use the liane vines that —> Read More