The world’s biggest and oldest trees are dying at an alarming rate, according to a report by three leading ecologists. Death rates among trees 100 to 300 years old, living organisms that also sustain birds and other wildlife, are accelerating in many parts of the world including savannahs, woodlands, forests, farming areas and even cities.

“Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments. Studies of ecosystems around the world suggest populations of these trees are declining rapidly,” said the study’s lead author, David Lindenmayer of Australian National University, who wrote the report — published in the journal Science — with colleagues Bill Laurance of James Cook University in Australia, and Jerry Franklin of Washington University in the U.S. The three ecologists are considered to be the top experts in their field.

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