Africa's Famous Trees Dying, Including Some of Oldest Baobabs

Africa's Famous Trees Dying, Including Some of Oldest Baobabs

Africa's Famous Trees Dying, Including Some of Oldest Baobabs

ONE of the world's most distinctive trees, the ancient baobab, is being wiped out by climate change, say scientists.

But that tree, the more than 1,000-year-old Sunland baobab, apparently the biggest of these trees in Africa, "toppled over" last year.

Some of the oldest and largest baobabs in South Africa‚ Zimbabwe‚ Namibia‚ Botswana‚ and Zambia have abruptly died in the past decade‚ say a team of global researchers.

"The deaths of the majority of the oldest and largest African baobabs over the past 12 years is an event of an unprecedented magnitude", the scientists wrote.

Adrian Patrut, who organised the survey, added: "It's a odd feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they're dying one after another during our lifetime".

"It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages", Adrian Patrut of Babe-Bolyai University in Romania, one of the study's co-authors, told AFP. In the past, they have been used as a prison, a barn and a bus shelter, according to the website of Kruger National Park in South Africa.

"When around 70 percent of your 1,500- to 2,000-year-old trees died within 12 years, it certainly is not normal", Erika Wise, a geographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the work, tells The Atlantic.

Occurring throughout the past decade, the trees' demise could be the result of climate change, the researchers say, but further study is needed to confirm their hypothesis. The baobab “is famous because it is the biggest angiosperm, and it is the most iconic tree of Africa, ” Patrut said.

The tree serves as a massive store of water, and bears fruit that feeds animals and humans.

A lot of scientists are increasingly getting concerned over the health of African baobab trees in Africa. "Such fix growth would lead to an inverted age sequence where wood initially gets older as you move towards the outside of the tree from the hollow". Even if one were to strip or burn bark from the tree, it would just form more and continue to grow.

"When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres".

It's possible that the deaths are part of a natural cycle, though it's hard to say because baobabs decay rapidly and don't leave behind any evidence of previous die-offs.

Beginning in Spring 2016, the tree began to split apart. That includes Panke, a sacred baobab in Zimbabwe that was estimated to be about 2,450 years old, with an 82-foot-wide trunk and a height of 51 feet.

None of the trees showed obvious signs of infection, the researchers found, and the pattern of deaths did not fit what would be expected had the die-off been caused by a contagious disease.

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