The Oldest Living Organisms in Africa Are Dying Due to Climate Change
Climate change is affecting the world at an increasingly alarming rate; global temperatures are rising, the ice caps in the Arctic are melting, and we’ve seen more severe weather patterns in the last decade than in the previous century.
However, one of the most upsetting effects of our planet’s changing climate is the drastic increase of endangered or extinct species. The estimated rate of extinction of both plant and animal species is 100-1,000 per million per year. This is largely due to climate change caused by humans; the rate prior to human evolution was less than 1 per million per year.
Due to deforestation and increased emissions, many of these animals and plants do not have the natural resources to thrive in the areas they once did. Furthermore, poaching and similar hunting practices are endangering hippos, giraffes, and many other large, critically endangered specifics.
One of the most recent plant species to fact extinction used to be abundant in its home continent of Africa. The Baobab tree is iconic to the African savannah, common in the Sahara and parts of South Africa. They are the oldest seed producing tree, with some being upwards of 2,000 years old. They are often featured in film and entertainment, nicknamed “the tree of life.” Their fruits are also widely used by local people for a variety of goods, such as soda, cosmetics and more.
Around 9 of the 13 oldest trees have either died or are in the process of dying in the last 6 years. Researches believe that climate change is the culprit: “We suspect the demise of the monumental baobab may be associated with the significant modifications to climate condition.”
These trees can grow up to the length of a bus, and have weathered significant weather patterns in their past 2,000 years of life. As these trees collapse and die, evidence from thousands of years ago surface, revealing both historic and environmental artifacts. But researchers believe that man-made changes to the environment that affect South Africa in particular are the reason they are struggling to survive. The Southern most region of Africa is one that is increasing in temperature the fastest as a result of climate change. Furthermore, factories and man-made operations are affecting the land on which the baobabs grow. In 2007, a sugar factory flooded the land on which a plot of trees grew, nearly killing all of the plants and destroying the land.
Thankfully, there is effort to protect these trees’ natural habitat and hopefully, through carbon-dating and other research tactics, environmental scientists can determine why these trees are among the many species to fear extinction.