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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

The Ancients Are Dying

The Ancients Are Dying

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, June 12, 2018/Categories: wildlife conservation, sustainability, environment, climate change, plants

                                                        Madagascar Baobabs (credit: Wikicommons)

They are often called Methuselah trees for being the most ancient individuals of their kind alive. Specimens of California's Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum), Nevada's Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva), the famous Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), and Africa's massive Baobabs (Adansonia digitata) are ancient sentinels that have often survived since a time before human civilization. Dramatic changes has been observed in Africa as new research shows.

Publishing in Nature Plants, ecologists from South Africa, Romania, and the United States examined Baobabs across Africa and its adjacent islands. According to their report, between 2005-2017 they dated more than 60 trees, nearly all of the continent’s known largest, and potentially oldest, living baobabs. They made the unexpected finding that many of these ancient trees had died within the past decade. As stated by their report,

"nine of the 13 oldest, and 5 of the 6 largest, baobabs we measured died in the 12-year period — an event of unprecedented magnitude.”

The investigators found no sign of a epidemic or plant diseases, leading them to believe the culprit was likely the changing climatic conditions in southern Africa which has been affected by an extended drought. The baobabs, looking like a gigantic succulent, may not be able to survive uninterrupted drought without any rain. Baobabs are existential trees that carry great cultural significance to many Africans. Again, the ecologists observed:

"in 2010 and 2011, all the stems of a giant, sacred baobab tree in Zimbabwe, fell over and died. We estimate that the tree was 2,450 years old, making it the oldest accurately dated African baobab and angiosperm (flowering plant). Other trees across southern Africa also died completely, or had partial stem collapse."

Further research will be necessary to determine the exact connection between drought, climate change, and Baobab collapse. However, the ancient trees are trying to tell us something if we would only listen.

WHB

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