The baobabs of Africa are dying and nobody knows why

La imagen de un grupo de baobabs de Madagascar.The image of a group of baobabs from Madagascar.

The Baobab (Ansonia) is the most iconic green symbol of the African savannah, it is a tree of enormous proportions of ephemeral flowers and fleshy fruits in different forms, with a furry shell. Baobabs are different from any other tree and seem to be planted backwards.

These magnificent and extraordinary trees are in danger. For a decade the African baobabs, especially the oldest, are dying. This is warned by a group of researchers in Nature plants, where climate change is the main reason.

A group of scientists from South Africa, Romania and the United States have discovered that the largest and oldest specimens of this species, some between 1,000 and 2,500 yearsold, have died in the last 12 years.

Un campo de baobabs, en Senegal, en una foto de 2004. Afirman que la especie A Baobab field, in Senegal, in a photo of 2004. They claim that the species is in danger. EFE

"It is very surprising to visit monumental Baobabs, with ages greater than one thousand or two thousand years, that seem to be in good health, and to find them after several years fallen to the ground and dead", explains the co-author of the study Adrian Patrut, of the Babes-Bolyai University of Romania.

"Statistically, it is virtually impossible for such a large number of old and large baobabs to die in such a short period of time due to natural causes," adds Patrut.

The study, which began in 2005, sought to date carbon these trees in continental Africa to determine their structure and age. Unlike other trees like sequoias or oaks, with baobabs it is not possible to date its antiquity simply by counting its growth rings; As the baobabs grow, their rings fade or clear.

However, when they arrived in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia to analyse them they discovered that eight of the oldest 13 baobabs and five of the six largest had died or lost their older parts.

Among the dying baobabs are known trees that have become famous for their size or natural architecture, such as the Baobab Sunland, as well as the Sacred Baobab Panke, a giant tree in Namibia called Grootboom, and Botswana's Baobab Chapman.

Patrut ensures that although it is a small set of data, the trend is alarming.

Un hombre descansa en una hamaca al pie de un baobab en Senegal. Afirman que A man rests in a hammock at the foot of a baobab in Senegal. They claim that these millennial trees are in danger. EFE

But what is most baffled to these scientists is that they have not yet been able to find an explanation for the death of some of these trees, considered among the oldest in the world.

Despite the mystery, scientists valued some theories that point more to human action than to the effects of pests, epidemics or other known plant diseases.

"We suspect that this is associated with increased temperature and drought, with significant changes in climate conditions affecting South Africa in particular," says Patrut.

In addition to these ancient trees, the team has also noticed that other large baobabs are dying at a very fast pace, particularly in areas where the climate is heating up faster.

However, this group of scientists recognizes that there is no clear evidence aboutthis. "More research is needed to support or refute this assumption," adds Patrut.

While more work needs to be done to definitively connect the dots between climate change and baobab mortality, another study published in Biological Conservation has already concluded that climate change will harm two of the three baobab species in Danger on the island of Madagascar.

Source: La Vanguardia

Clarin.com

Source: CLARIN