According to an international team of scientists, who have published their findings in Nature Plants journal, over the past 12 years most of Africa's largest and oldest baobab trees have died or their oldest parts have collapsed.
Karl von Reden of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his team has been examining ancient trees in southern Africa since 2005, using a radiocarbon-dating technique to learn more about their age and architecture.
Instead of discovering the secret to the baobab's long life, the team has found out that many of the most ancient trees had died by that moment. The "victims," all aged between 1,000 to over 2,500 years old, were found in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Looking for the Culprit
Researchers have called the demise of baobabs "an event of an unprecedented magnitude." They suppose that climate change, which also affects South Africa, might be partially to blame for the mysterious death of baobab trees, although they claim further research is required to confirm or reject this idea.
Considered to be the symbol of the African savannah, the baobab is the biggest and longest-living flowering tree in the world, which can live for more than a thousand years. It is readily recognized by its monumental trunk and, by comparison, straggly twigs and stems. Baobabs are known to have a great ability to survive, with their trunks storing large amounts of water (up to 650 liters per cubic meter of a tree).