Ask anyone about the most representative image they have about Africa and most certainly their answer will be the baobab trees. They are iconic, out of this world and let’s not even mention ancient. Until last year, the biggest baobab tree was the Platland tree in South Africa, also called Sunland. It stood at 62 ft high and 111 ft around. Moreover, it was about 1,000-years old. Its hollow center hosted a fully functional cocktail bar which was able to receive 15 people at once. But starting Spring 2016, this miraculous tree began splitting apart.
By November last year, it was completely crumbled down. According to the bar’s owners, rot caused by heavy rain was to blame for the death of the tree. The problem is that the Platland tragedy was not singular. According to a new survey of baobab trees in Africa, published in Nature Plants, the majority of the biggest and oldest such trees have died or severely deteriorated over the past ten years. But what could cause this sudden demise? Experts blame climate change. According to the organizer of the survey, Adrian Patrut, a chemist at Romania’s Babeș-Bolyai University, what is happening is very strange. These trees can live up to 2,000 years and yet, they are dying right before our very eyes.
The mysterious cause of the baobab trees’ demise
Patrut began this survey back in 2005 and eventually, he managed to cover over 60 trees. A group of two dozen of them were exceptionally rare, big and old. Some of the trees he observed were even older than 2,000-years old. Baobabs are among the most difficult trees to date because of their intricate shape and growth patterns. And some experts even criticized Patrut because of his methods.
However, he was right to try and find out more about their demise. He admits that more research is needed to establish the clear cause of these deaths even if he already has one in his mind: climate change.
Image source: flickr