Discovery rewrites natural history books
Botanists have re-written Ireland's natural-history books by discovering that the Scots pine tree is a native species.
One of the first trees to colonise after the ice sheets melted some 12,000 years ago, it was previously believed that all examples of Scots pine were eradicated around 4,000 years ago, before the tree was re-introduced in the 17th century.
However, researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have found that the species survived and has been thriving uninterrupted in an isolated part of Co Clare for thousands of years.
A team led by Fraser Mitchell, Professor of Quaternary Ecology in the School of Natural Sciences, has confirmed that the tree never died out at Rockforest in the Burren.
"All of these trees found in Ireland today were assumed to be descendants of the introduced Scottish stock (from the 17th century) but that's not the case," he said.
"We analysed pollen grains preserved in lake sediments to look into the natural history of this species and those grains revealed its continual presence over the years."
The evergreen species can grow up to 45m in height and has been known to live for more than 750 years.
The research, 'Re-defining the natural range of Scots pine', which is published in the 'Journal of Biogeography' shows that Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) has survived at Rockforest without interruption, despite being eradicated from other parts of the country and from Wales, England, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands some 4,000 years ago.
Scots pine is an important pine species in forestry and in related industries as the wood is used for pulp and sawn timber products in construction.