Africa's strangest trees are stranger than thought-and they're dying mysteriously

Africa's strangest trees are stranger than thought—and they're dying mysteriously

Africa's strangest trees are stranger than thought—and they're dying mysteriously

"The deaths of the majority of the oldest and largest African baobabs is an event of an unprecedented magnitude and these deaths were not caused by an epidemic".

“Pretty much every baobab tree in Southern Africa is covered in the healed scars of past elephant attacks, which speaks to the trees awesome 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.

Their growth system also allows the trees to form giant gaps in their trunks. They were surprised that most of the oldest and biggest died within those 12 years.

The trees that have died or are dying are found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

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. The Sunland baobab in South Africa's Limpopo Province, which is so large it houses a cocktail bar, suddenly began splitting apart in 2016 and may not last much longer. What they found, among other things, was that eight of the 13 oldest African baobab trees have either died or had their oldest stems die.

"It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages", said the study's co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania.

Patrut began to notice the deaths during a long-term effort to use radiocarbon dating to gauge the ages of major baobabs. Some of these trees are more than 2000 years old. 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.

Southern Africa, where the researchers cataloged the trees, has already been heating up faster than the global average, and researchers with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say the region will see some of the most intense temperatures hikes and reduced rainfall on the continent. Increased temperature and drought are the primary threats, Patrut told BBC News. "Climate change certainly seems like a possible (or likely) contributor". The common theory, Baum said, is that as the tree slowly grows around these scars, they can become large hollows.

The baobab tree, sometimes called the “Tree of Life, ” has an unforgettable appearance. "It's a unusual 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".

Whatever the cause, these mysterious deaths will have a big impact on the southern African landscape.

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