Some of Africa's oldest and biggest baobob trees have died

The sun rises behind a Baobab tree in the Okavango Delta Botswana

The sun rises behind a Baobab tree in the Okavango Delta Botswana

They do wonder if the deaths might be connected to climate change, but there is no concrete evidence of this.

"Nine of the 13 oldest ... have died‚ or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died‚ over the past 12 years‚" they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants‚ calling it "an event of an unprecedented magnitude".

Large numbers of Africa's most iconic tree - the Baobab - are dying, nearly certainly as a result of climate change, according to a new report in a London-based journal.

Baobab trees have many stems and trunks, often of different ages.

All affected Baobab trees were in southern Africa. Because they don't put down a growth ring every year like other trees, he collected samples from the trees, using radio-carbon dating to determine their age, finding that many of them were over 2,000 years old, though some researchers think his dating techniques might be conservative, shaving 1,000 years off their age. "Statistically, it is practically impossible that such a high number of large old baobabs die in such a short time frame due to natural causes".

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Several of Africa's largest baobab trees have suddenly and unexpectedly died, with scientists fearing climate change to be the culprit.

Study leader Adrian Patrut‚ from Babes-Bolyai University in Romania‚ says: "It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages".

"However, further research is necessary to support or refute this supposition".

The trees that have died or are dying are found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

The African baobab is the biggest and longest-living angiosperm tree. Baobobs grow in unusual ways, often with hollows, making it hard to gauge precise ages, but the research team says the trees in the survey range in age from 1,000 to 2,500 years, reports NPR. It serves as a massive store of water and bears fruit that feeds animals and humans. In recent years, a mysterious fungal disease has been hitting baobabs trees in certain parts of the continent.

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Its leaves are boiled and eaten as an accompaniment similar to spinach, or used to make traditional medicines, while the bark is pounded and woven into rope, baskets, cloth, and waterproof hats.

"The majority of baobabs start growing as single-stemmed trees", the authors explain in their paper. Now, researchers report things get even weirder as the tree grows older.

The tree named after South African hunter James Chapman, who visited it in 1852, saw all six its stems topple simultaneously on January 7, 2016 where it had stood for some 1,400 years.

Elsie Cruywagen, a researcher at the Agricultural Research Council in Pretoria, says that there have been many reports over the decades of baobabs dying in times of drought.

The researchers say the deaths were not caused by an epidemic since none of the trees show any signs of infection.

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