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Author Topic: THE SAHARA  (Read 4036 times)
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« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2009, 11:07:41 pm »

And old trees, just like old humans, slow down considerably: Abdoun’s carbon-14 analysis showed that a tree in Wadi Tichouinet estimated to be 2200 years old, with a trunk radius of 63 centimeters (25"), has taken three-quarters of its life just to grow the last one-third of its width. A tree in Wadi InGharouhane is thought to have taken 1130 years to add just 25 centimeters (10") to its radius. These widely varied growth patterns, dependent upon microhabitat fluctuations, make it difficult to correlate rings in different trees to specific years. One tree may benefit from rain runoff coursing through the sandy soil it is rooted in, while a tree very nearby may miss even a quick sip.

Ahmad Hadrawi is a former park warden who now sells blankets in the Djanet marketplace. He retired in 2004 after spending 33 years in the field, much of it in tree protection. Over that time, he cared for his charges by reburying roots exposed by flooding, searching for new growth and collecting seeds for the National Forestry Research Center in Algiers. He got to know the trees almost as people.

“These trees need experts to help keep them alive,” he says. “They need people like me. Some are like babies, some are like old men, and some are still strong and can live by themselves.”

Hadrawi is correct to say that the trees need people—if only to protect them from tour groups scrounging for campfire wood. “The one we call Tin-Balalan,” he says, referring to the tarout with a 12-meter (48') girth in Wadi Amazar, “is, you know, the biggest in the world. It will not die anytime soon.” He is also correct about this, if we can assume that girth is relative to age. When last seen in February 2006, Tin-Balalan had a healthy crown and was drinking from a standing pool of water near its roots.

 Louis Werner

is a free-lance writer and filmmaker living in New York. He can be reached at

 Kevin Bubriski

( is a documentary photographer who lives in southern Vermont.
His solo exhibition “Nepal Photographs: 1975–2005” is on view at the Visual Arts Center
of Union College in Schenectady, New York.

This article appeared on pages 32-39 of the September/October 2007 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.
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