Breaking

Scientists shocked by mysterious deaths of ancient trees

Latest news

    Panke, the oldest known African baobab, in 1997Image copyright Jocelyn Alexander
    Image caption Panke, the oldest known African baobab, in 1997. The tree has since died.

    A tree regarded as the icon of the African savannah is dying in mysterious circumstances.

    International scientists have discovered that most of the oldest and largest African baobabs have died over the past 12 years.

    They suspect the demise may be linked to climate change, although they have no direct evidence of this.

    The tree can grow to an enormous size, and may live hundreds if not thousands of years.

    The researchers, from universities in South Africa, Romania and the US, say the loss of the trees is “an event of an unprecedented magnitude”.

    Revealing the findings in the journal, Nature Plants, they say the deaths were not caused by an epidemic.

    “We suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular,” said the team, led by Dr Adrian Patrut of Babes-Bolyai University in Romania. “However, further research is necessary to support or refute this supposition.”

    ‘Shocking and very sad’

    The researchers have been visiting ancient trees across southern Africa since 2005, using radio carbon dating to investigate their structure and age.

    Unexpectedly, they found that eight of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest baobabs had either completely died or had their oldest parts collapse.

    Baobab trees have many stems and trunks, often of different ages. In some cases all the stems died suddenly.

    “We suspect this is associated with increased temperature and drought,” Dr Patrut told BBC News. “It’s shocking and very sad to see them dying.”

    The trees that have died or are dying are found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. They are all between 1,000 and more than 2,500 years old.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Baobabs are trees recognisable by their distinctive swollen stems

    Also known as ‘dead-rat’ trees, after the shape of their fruit, baobab trees have stout, branchless trunks.

    They store large quantities of water inside their trunks to endure the harsh conditions of the arid areas in which they live.

    The trees also support wildlife, and are important nesting sites for birds.

    View the original article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44418849

    Follow Helen on Twitter.

    In the same category are

    Canada becomes second country to legalise recreational marijuana Image copyright Getty Images Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalise possession and use of recreational cannabis.The nationwi...
    Brexit: ‘Expectations low’ as PM heads to Brussels Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionBBC Europe editor Katya Adler looks at how united the EU really is over BrexitTheresa May ...
    US moves to negotiate trade deals with Japan, UK, EU Image copyright Getty Images The US has said it intends to negotiate three separate trade agreements with Japan, the UK and the EU.It could take se...
    Gender Recognition Act: ‘Why we want identity rules changed’ Image copyright Rory Darling If you want to legally change your gender in the UK, first you have to be diagnosed with a mental illness.A transgender...
    Self-lubricating condom designed to reduce infections Image copyright Getty Images Scientists say they have found a way to make self-lubricating latex condoms that become slippery on contact.It is thank...
    ‘I’ve never had this much attention’ Image copyright Getty Images Interviewing Jamie Lee Curtis is almost as terrifying as her new film.The 60-year-old is someone who will give you a to...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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