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Climate Change And Drought Killing Trees Around The World Including The Ancient Baobabs Of Africa

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Warming temperatures caused by man-made climate change are impacting trees and forests in many parts of the world.

Climate Change, Droughts Impacting Forests And Trees

Sequoias, the world's largest trees by volume and thousands of years old, are no longer as resilient because of climate change. As droughts occur, other species of trees nearby suck up the water stored on the ground, which leaves the sequoias susceptible to dying.

A 2017 study suggested that a large number of trees are dying because of warmer temperatures and drought. Although forests can tolerate short droughts, warmer temperatures increasingly stress the trees making them less resilient.

"Widespread, high levels of tree mortality, termed forest die-off, associated with drought and rising temperatures, are disrupting forests worldwide," study researcher Henry Adams, from Oklahoma State University and colleagues wrote in their study.

More than 350 million pinyon pines in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah also died in just one year from 2002 to 2003, which experts attribute to climate change. California's drought, which began in 2012, is blamed for the death of 100 million trees.

Severe droughts are likewise killing several species of trees in India's tropical forests and pines trees in China.

Now, the mysterious death of some of the oldest and biggest baobab trees in Africa over the past 12 years is also possibly linked to climate change.

Ancient Baobab Trees Are Dying

Adrian Patrut of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania started to notice the death of the ancient baobab trees amid efforts to use radiocarbon dating to estimate the age of major baobab trees. The survey began in 2005 and has so far covered over 60 trees.

Of the surveyed baobabs, a group consists of around a dozen trees stood out because of their exceptional size and age. These included trees that calculations suggest to be more than 2,000 years old.

The Platland trees, the queen of baobabs in South Africa, was the biggest baobab in the continent large enough to host a fully functional cocktail bar that can seat 15 people. In 2016, the tree started to fall apart and completely crumbled over a span of just over a year.

Two of the other trees, Dorslandboom in Namibia and Glencoe in South Africa, which are over 2,000 years, are also in bad shape. The largest and oldest stems of these trees have collapsed albeit parts of them are still alive.

"We report that 9 of the 13 oldest and 5 of the 6 largest individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years; the cause of the mortalities is still unclear," the researchers reported in a study published in the journal Nature Plants on June 11.

Mysterious Die-Off Possibly Caused By Climate Change

Patrut and colleagues suspect that the die-off of the ancient trees may be caused by climate change. They think that the trees are dying partly because of changes in climate conditions that particularly impacted South Africa.

"We suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular," Patrut said.

Olivier Lejade | Flickr

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