Africa’s majestic baobab trees are mysteriously dying

2

By Sarah Wild

Africa’s iconic baobab trees are dying, and scientists don’t know why. In a study intended to examine why the trees are so long-living, researchers made the unexpected finding that many of the oldest and largest of the trees have died in the past decade or so.

The African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) is the oldest living flowering plant, or angiosperm, and is found in the continent’s tropical regions. Individual trees — which can contain up to 500 cubic metres of wood — can live for more than 2,000 years. Their wide trunks often have hollow cavities, and their high branches resemble roots sticking up into the air.

The researchers — who published their findings1 in Nature Plants on 11 June — set out to use a newly developed radiocarbon-dating technique to study the age and architecture of the species. Usual tree-ring dating methods are not suitable for baobabs, because their trunks do not necessarily grow annual rings.

The trees’ ages were previously attributed to their size, and in local folklore, baobabs are often described as being old, says study author Adrian Patrut, a radiochemist at Babeş-Bolyai University in Romania.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

2 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – Africa’s iconic baobab trees are dying, and scientists don’t know why. In a study intended to examine why the trees are so long-living, researchers made the unexpected finding that many of the oldest and largest of the trees have died in the past decade or so.

    I would suspect it is because the baobab trees are often retained when the associated ecosystem is stripped, so perhaps they are hanging on in a rearguard survival mode as the local native ecosystems collapse under human pressure!

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291355825_CONSERVATION_OF_Adansonia_digitata_Baoba_tree_FOR_SUSTAINABLE_LIVELIHOOD_IN_SUDANO-_SAHELIAN_REGION_OF_NIGERIA_A_CASE_STUDY_OF_KATSINA_STATE

    The indigenous people deliberately retain baobab trees on their land due to some cultural believes such as accommodating spirits and manmade; protection of the region from desertification, flooding, drought; and the provision of vegetables, soup condiments, medicinal herbs, and money from the sales of the products. Therefore, its excessive conservation by the indigenous people within the Sudano-sahelian region of Nigeria is imperative.

    The baobab is a large caudiciform drought resistant succulent, which can survive for a long time in desert conditions, but it could be worn down over time with increasing desertification and drought.

    Because of native beliefs, baobabs are also often the last trees left standing in Madagascar, when the rest of the forests are felled, and the entire nature of the local ecosystem is altered.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.