by Graham Pierrepoint
Everyone loves a good mystery – and while this may well be found in a good book or movie, the world around us remains quietly mysterious and unexplored, despite huge advancements in technology and scientific research over the decades. For example, it’s thought that there are still vast areas of ocean which we have still not fully explored – it’s a wild, wonderful world out there – and one such mystery regarding the odd demise of a number of ancient trees appears to be baffling even those who are most likely to have all the answers.
The trees in question belong to the African savannah – the baobab – a species which is known to grow and thrive for thousands of years at a time. However, there seems to have been a spate of baobab deaths in just the past twelve years that suggest the oldest in the line have been gradually reaching the end of their lifespans. But why is this? Why are so many baobab trees – centuries of years old – choosing to die off in such a cluster? According to research undertaken across the US, Romania and South Africa, an epidemic is not to blame – but, as the BBC reports, the evidence is still rather concerning. Trees that have been affected are all thought to be at least 1000 years old – though some may be older than our current calendar. It’s incredible to think that there is life still standing that has overseen millennia of evolution and societal construction.
▶ Science Can’t Explain Why Africa’s Ancient ‘Tree Of Life’ Is Dying
Dr Adrian Patrut, leading studies into African baobab deaths from Romania’s Babes-Bolyai University, suggests that environmental modification may be to blame, though the thought that climate change could be to blame is just a suggestion at this stage. “We suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modification of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular,” Patrut’s team reports. “However – further research is necessary to support or refute this supposition.” “It’s shocking and very sad to see them dying,” advised Dr Patrut. “We suspect this is associated with increased temperature and drought."
Baobab trees are extremely important to local eco-systems, particularly for local birds, which is why it is all the more important that this particular mystery is cleared up sooner rather than later. Can climate change be to blame? It’s not clear – at least, not just yet.
▶ Climate change maybe wiping out thousands-years-old trees