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The World's Tallest Tropical Tree in Three Dimensions

Shenkin, Alexander; Chandler, Chris J.; Boyd, Doreen S.; Jackson, Toby; Disney, Mathias; Majalap, Noreen; Nilus, Reuben; Foody, Giles; bin Jami, Jamiluddin; Reynolds, Glen; Wilkes, Phil; Cutler, Mark E. J.; van der Heijden, Geertje M. F.; Burslem, David F. R. P.; Coomes, David A.; Bentley, Lisa Patrick; Malhi, Yadvinder


Alexander Shenkin

Chris J. Chandler

Doreen S. Boyd

Toby Jackson

Mathias Disney

Noreen Majalap

Reuben Nilus

Giles Foody

Jamiluddin bin Jami

Glen Reynolds

Phil Wilkes

Mark E. J. Cutler

Geertje M. F. van der Heijden

David F. R. P. Burslem

David A. Coomes

Lisa Patrick Bentley

Yadvinder Malhi


Here we report the recent discovery of the world's tallest tropical tree (Shorea faguetiana), possibly the world's tallest angiosperm (flowering plant), located in the rainforests of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. In addition, we provide a novel three-dimensional exploration of the dimensions of this remarkable tree and use these data to speculate on what drives the limits of tree height. Through consideration of both mechanical (risk of wind damage) and ecophysiological constraints we argue that this tree is close to the maximum height possible for angiosperms, around 100 m, and discuss more broadly what the nature and location of this tree imply about the limits to tree height. We propose to name this remarkable tree “Menara,” Malay for “tower.”

This tall tree (“Menara”) was first identified during an airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey conducted in 2014. The tree is located in the Danum Valley Conservation Area (DVCA) in Sabah, which also holds the previous record holder for tallest tropical tree1. This tree is located at an elevation of 436 m a.s.l on a slope of 33° and an aspect of 72°. Because airborne LiDAR is prone to significant errors when used to estimate heights of individual trees (Wan Mohd Jaafar et al., 2018), and because hilly topography will likely exacerbate those errors, record claims need to verified by reliable and calibrated instruments (such as Terrestrial Laser Scanning [TLS]) and, ideally, manual tape measurement. Hence, following the airborne identification, researchers returned in August 2018 to manually measure trunk diameter and conduct TLS scans and a drone flight to construct a detailed 3D model (Figure 1) and to calculate tree height and other dimensions. A further visit was conducted in January 2019, during which the tree was climbed to the top of its crown so the height could be directly verified with a measuring tape (Figure 2).

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 18, 2019
Journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Print ISSN 2624-893X
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 2
Article Number 32
Pages 1-5
APA6 Citation Shenkin, A., Chandler, C. J., Boyd, D. S., Jackson, T., Disney, M., Majalap, N., …Malhi, Y. (2019). The World's Tallest Tropical Tree in Three Dimensions. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2, 1-5. doi:10.3389/ffgc.2019.00032
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