Downfall of a giant? Ancient baobabs dying

0611-Tree2

Worldwide scientists have discovered that most of the oldest and largest African baobab trees have died over the past 12 years.

Namibia's oldest and largest trees, the baobabs, some of which have lived for 1,700 years, have begun dying in the last 13 years, leaving scientists stunted.

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 worldwide researchers. Over 15 years, Patrut identified about 60 of the largest and oldest baobabs. Now seven more of the 13 oldest trees, and five of the six biggest trees have also died.

Adrian Patrut, the lead author of the study and a chemist at Babes-Bolyai University of Romania says that the shocking demise of such a high number of tress is very unexpected.

Thomas Lovejoy, an environmental scientist at George Mason University, told the Washington Post: "I do think climate is a likely culprit, but they don't actually present any evidence of how climate is changing where these ancient trees occur". 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. "However‚ further research is necessary to support or refute this".

Some of Africa's prized baobab trees appear to be abruptly dying, researchers warned on Monday. Instead, the researchers believe climate-change-fueled drought has weakened the trees. Baobobs grow in unusual ways, often with hollows, making it hard to gauge precise ages, but the research team says the trees in the survey range in age from 1,000 to 2,500 years, reports NPR. The baobab “is famous because it is the biggest angiosperm, and it is the most iconic tree of Africa, ” Patrut said. Their trunks are able to store massive volumes of water even in dry landscapes - on which animals and humans have relied - which is perhaps why the baobab is called the "tree of life".

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Its leaves, meanwhile, can be boiled and eaten as an accompaniment similar to spinach, or used to make traditional medicines.

The objective of the study was to learn how the trees get so enormous. “When a tree is damaged to form a hollow, bark can grow into the cavity and eventually start making new wood to fill in the hole.

"When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres". It first began to split apart in the spring of 2016.

“(They do refer to other baobab mortality but dont have real data on it),” Lovejoy continued. 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.

"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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