The African Baobab tree has a reputation for being one of the largest and oldest trees on the continent. These trees sport iconic girthy trunks with widths tantamount to the length of an automobile, and experts say that some could be more than 2,500 years old.
But while these trees appear to be time-resistant, researchers are baffled by unknown circumstances that killed at least nine of Africa’s 13 oldest and largest Baobab trees (either entirely or only partly) within the last ten years.
A paper published in the journal Nature Plants this week seems to point the finger at climate change, which may have made the surrounding environment too hostile for these enormous trees to exist.
“It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages,” commented study co-author Adrian Patrut from Babes-Bolyai University in Romania.
Researchers haven't validated the theory just yet, so there could very well be another cause at work. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to kill such a massive tree, and it just seems odd that they all kicked the bucket within such a narrow timeframe.
Those that died could all be found in countries throughout Southern Africa, which the report designates as one of the most vulnerable parts of the continent to the effects of climate change.
While the study doesn’t pinpoint the exact cause of death for these giant trees, it does underscore the imminent danger that the remaining African Baobab tree population may be in.
Indeed, the problem doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, so conservationists will need to act fast if they're to save what's left.
Source: The Guardian