03:43 GMT +316 December 2018
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    Baobab

    Africa's Most Ancient Trees Dying Out, Leaving Scientists Shocked and Puzzled

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    Scientists are struggling to find out why the iconic African baobab trees have been dying. The news about the demise of baobabs has come as a shock since the researchers were trying to achieve quite the opposite - learn why the trees have such long lives.

    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.

    READ MORE: Russian Scientists Find Evidence of Global Warming in Tibetan Cedar Trees

    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.

    Sarah Venter from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, said that baobabs are apparently less drought-tolerant than they were thought to be. The scientists, however, have failed to come up with an explanation why lower drought tolerance has not affected all individuals, but just the largest and oldest ones. According to the team, the dead trees cannot be explained by an epidemic. Moreover, the number of "apparently natural deaths" of many other mature baobabs has been swiftly growing.

    READ MORE: US Trophy Hunting Plays Key Role in ‘Silent Extinction' of Giraffes

    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).

    Related:

    Russian Scientists Find Evidence of Global Warming in Tibetan Cedar Trees
    US Trophy Hunting Plays Key Role in ‘Silent Extinction’ of Giraffes
    New Climate Change Report Says We’re Screwed Even if Paris Accord Goals Met
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    extinction, tree, Africa
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