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The baobabs are dying of a mysterious cause...

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The king of the African savannah, the tree of life, the pharmacist tree, the magic tree, the millennium baobab tree, is disappearing. Silently and mysteriously. An international team of researchers is making this tragic observation: the oldest baobabs in Africa are dying. We do not know the causes of this hecatomb. Climate change is blamed and the disaster, which began some ten years ago, is set to continue before our very eyes.
 
Ahe African baobab tree, the tallest and longest lasting of all angiosperms (flowering plants), is in mortal danger, and new research has discovered that many of these ancient trees have recently died or are disappearing.
It's really shocking and dramatic to experience in our lifetime the disappearance of so many trees of millennia of age. "explained to the Guardian the botanist Adrian Patrut from the University Babeș-Bolyai in Romania.
 
Adrian Patrut and his team began studying baobabs in 2005, analysing more than 60 of the largest and potentially oldest specimens in Africa. Across Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia, researchers collected samples from different parts of the trees. Fragments were then aged using carbon dating. Assessing the age of a baobab tree using traditional methods is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible to count its rings, as is done for all other trees. The majority of baobabs do not have a single conventional trunk, but a group of trunks, clustered vertically like a sort of fused mini forest.
The majority of baobabs begin to grow as single-stemmed trees. the authors explain in their article published Monday in the scientific journal "The New York Times". Nature Plants. " Over time, single-stemmed individuals become multi-stemmed, thanks to the ability of baobabs to periodically produce new stems, in the same way that other tree species produce branches. With this special ability, baobabs develop increasingly complex architectures over time. "
 
While investigating these complex architectures in an attempt to unlock the secrets of their incredible measurements, the team discovered, almost by chance, that these wooded structures were quickly doomed: eight of the thirteen oldest baobabs - and five of the six largest - have either died since 2005, or begun to collapse from the inside. « Statistically, it is almost impossible that so many old baobabs [could] die in such a short time from natural causes. "said Professor Patrut to National Geographic.
 
These sudden and concentrated disappearances in a short period of time do not fail to move the scientific community, but also, first and foremost, Africans. For them, the baobab tree is a symbol, the oldest among them even having a patronymic. Among the victims are three symbolic monsters: Panke, originally from Zimbabwe, the oldest baobab tree with 2450 years on the counter, the Platland tree from South Africa, one of the largest in the world, with a trunk of more than 10 metres in diameter, and the famous Chapman baobab tree from Botswana, on which the famous explorer Livingstone engraved his initials, classified as a national monument.
 
If natural causes are ruled out, especially epidemics, what is the origin of these disappearances on an unprecedented scale? Scientists suspect that " that the disappearance of the monumental baobab trees is associated, at least in part, with significant changes in climatic conditions that particularly affect southern Africa ». Certainly, the researchers argue that " further research will be needed to support or refute this hypothesis ». But"... the region in which the age-old baobab trees died is one of the fastest warming regions in Africa ", notes Adrian Patrut. A remark that makes us fear the worst for this population of majestic trees, which joins the long and sad procession of species and plants exterminated by the effects of our industrial activities.
 
 

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