The demise of the baobabs – a climate change warning?

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Lisbeth
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Scientists are shocked at the sudden death of most of Africa’s largest baobabs

Post by Lisbeth » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:39 pm

Business Insider SA
Jun 12, 2018, 10:39 AM


Image
Baobab tree on the beach in front of the Royal Lodge, Saloum Delta National Park, Senegal. (Getty Images)

- Nine of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest African baobabs have died, or their main stems collapsed

- The African baobab is the largest and oldest known angiosperm, or flowering plant

- Scientists do not know why they are dying, but suspect climate change


The Zimbabwean sacred baobab, Panke, was more than 2,400 years old when all its stems toppled and died in 2010-11. It is one of a number of ancient African baobabs that have died since 2017 across southern Africa, according to new research published in Nature Plants. The region is home to the oldest and largest African baobabs. Baobabs have broad trunks, or multiple stems coming out of the ground. When they are not flowering, these iconic trees’ branches resemble roots reaching into the sky.
Nine of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest African baobabs have died, or their main stems collapsed.

Since 2005, an international team of researchers has investigated and dated practically all known very large and potentially very old African baobabs on the continent, about 60 trees in total. Using radiocarbon-dating, in which researchers date carbon atoms inside the tree stem, they found that baobabs’ unique architecture is responsible for their longevity. The baobab puts out new stems in the same way that other trees grow new branches. This creates a central ring-shaped cavity surrounded by stems, which can fuse to create a single trunk.

The researchers set out to date the trees, but discovered that they were dying in an “event of unprecedented magnitude”, they write.

The team does not believe that the deaths were caused by an epidemic, and suspect climate change in southern Africa. However, they call for more research.

Elsie Cruywagen, a researcher at the Agricultural Research Council in Pretoria, says that there have been many reports over the decades of baobabs dying in times of drought. “It is mostly the most conspicuous ones, the biggest and oldest ones, that have died in a relatively short time that is so striking.

The African baobab is the largest and oldest known angiosperm, or flowering plant.
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Lisbeth
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The demise of the baobabs – a climate change warning?

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:25 am

Posted on 25 June, 2018 by Guest Blogger in People, Research, Wildlife

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The Platland tree/ Sunland baobab – one of the many casualties © Dr. Adrian Patrut

Written by Ryan Mizzen


A Research released earlier this month showed that some of the largest and oldest baobab trees in Africa died within a 12 year period. For trees that have lived for millennia to suddenly succumb over such a short space of time and in different countries, suggests that a major cause may be to blame.

The research paper in Nature Plants listed climate change as a potential suspect, but also noted that further research was necessary. Recently I interviewed Adrian Patrut from the Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania, who co-authored the research paper. He explained that “southern Africa is one of the fastest warming areas worldwide. We suspect that an unprecedented combination of temperature increase and extreme drought stress were responsible for these demises”.

Taking one example of the Chapman’s baobab in Botswana, Patrut went on to explain that it produced leaves and flowers well before the rainy season started, depleting its water reserves so that it wasn’t able to support itself and collapsed in the space of a day. He also noted that the rainy season had started later than usual that year. These weather extremes and shifting rainfall patterns are set to become the new normal as a result of climate change, putting more of our flora and fauna at risk.

The reason why the loss of these baobabs is so concerning is because these trees are renowned for being particularly difficult to kill. When the inside of baobabs are burned by fire, they’ll continue growing. When bark is stripped away by large mammals such as elephants, they’ll grow new bark. For climate change to have killed them sends a very worrying message.

When we lose our great trees, we also lose part of human history. Baobabs are regarded as sacred trees by certain tribes and used for ceremonies and other tribal traditions. In West Africa, important meetings would take place beneath baobab trees to resolve conflicts. When these trees go, so do the customs and folklore that have grown with them.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to life on this planet, and there is a sad irony that baobabs which are known as ‘the trees of life’, are amongst the first casualties. Unless we wish to see more species heading for a similar fate, then we need to urgently reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to meaningfully tackle climate change. We stand to lose more than we may realise if we fail.

https://africageographic.com/blog/baoba ... 3cf4ca8e69
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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