Climate change is likely killing ancient baobab trees

Two yellow baobab pods hanging from a leafy branch

If climate change is truly the culprit, this is just the latest evidence of how our careless addiction to carbon is damaging the sensitive ecosystems around us in ways that could be irrevocable.

"We report that nine of the 13 oldest. individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years", they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing "an event of an unprecedented magnitude".

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

The contention is that the largest baobabs weave together multiple tree stems around a small “false cavity, ” and this is what gives them their unique structure. Researchers said further research is necessary to support or refute that idea.

Researchers taking a survey of some of the world's oldest and funkiest trees have bad news to report: Africa's legendary baobobs are dying.

Old trees eventually die.

If the researchers are correct, then African baobab trees are yet another precious item in the list of things humans ruined or killed.

The baobab, or Adansonia palmate (Adansonia modeling) is a species of tree in the genus Adansonia the family Malvaceae characteristic of dry savannas of tropical Africa. It is a strange-looking plant, with branches resembling gnarled roots reaching for the sky, giving it an upside-down look. "W$3 hen around 70 percent of your 1,500 to 2,000-year-old trees died within 12 years, it certainly is not normal", she says. "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". The researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyse samples taken from different parts of each tree's trunk.

While the science of baobab biology is not yet settled - with at least one ecologist calling out Patrut's multi-stem hypothesis as a "fantasy" - nobody disagrees that it's heartbreaking to see these great, old lives pass into memory like this. The scientists considered baobabs a good challenge because others had said wood was hard to determine the age of.

"When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibers, which makes many people think that they don't die at all, but simply disappear", states the website. Since the study began, nine of the 13 oldest have died or partially perished. The biggest‚ Holboom‚ was from Namibia. It stood 30.2 metres (99 feet) tall and had a girth of 35.1 m.

The most famous victim of the die-off was the Chapman's baobab‚ a national monument and tourist attraction in central Botswana that bore the carved initials of explorer David Livingstone.

Some of the largest are more than 20m wide - one specimen in South Africa known as the Platland housed a bar until it began to rot and split apart in 2016. "There has also been a rapid increase in the apparently natural deaths of many other mature baobabs", authors say.

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