Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Medical | By

Climate change could be killing baobabs

Climate change could be killing baobabs

Over the last 12 years recorded the deaths of eight of the thirteen most ancient and five of the six largest baobab in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa, whose age ranges from 1,000 to 2,500 years.

The Sunland Baobab, also known as the Platland tree, was the continent's biggest baobab, standing more than 60 feet high and more than 100 feet across.

"We report that nine of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died over the past 12 years", wrote the global team of researchers.

According to the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the baobabs can live to be 3,000 years old and can grow to be so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its hollow trunk.

Despite typical lifespans of hundreds or even thousands of years, Africa's baobab trees are dying off rapidly, according to a new study by ecologists.

Study leader Adrian Patrut‚ from Babes-Bolyai University in Romania‚ says: "It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages".

Baobabs are "very hard to kill", according to Kruger National Park.

“Pretty much every baobab tree in Southern Africa is covered in the healed scars of past elephant attacks, which speaks to the trees unbelievable fix ability, ” said David Baum, a University of Wisconsin botanist who is familiar with the new study and contributed to a recent Biodiversity International publication cataloguing the trees attributes, in an email. "However‚ further research is necessary to support or refute this". The researchers don't have enough data to point out a culprit, but they believe it's climate change. It has upward reaching branches only at the very top, creating the illusion that the tree is growing upside down with its roots stretching out towards the sky. It serves as a massive store of water and bears fruit that feeds animals and humans.

A tree regarded as the icon of the African savannah is dying in mysterious circumstances.

Updated, 11.55am, 12 June 2018: This article was updated to clarify figures with regard to the number of trees analysed by the research team. Its leaves are boiled and eaten as an accompaniment similar to spinach, or used to make traditional medicines, while the bark is pounded and woven into rope, baskets, cloth and waterproof hats. "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". In some cases all the stems died suddenly.

The eldest tree - the Panke in Zimbabwe - was found dead in 2010. It first began to split apart in the spring of 2016.

"These deaths were not caused by an epidemic and there has also been a rapid increase in the apparently natural deaths of many other mature baobabs‚" the researchers say.

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