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Climate Change Threatens Madagascar’s Towering Baobab Trees

Baobab trees



PHILIPPE MICHEL Getty Images

The Ewe people of Togo, among others in Africa, have a proverb: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.” Indeed, the grand specimens of the genus Adansonia can live more than 1,000 years, with trunks 30 feet across.

Six of the world's eight baobab species are found only in Madagascar. But according to a recent study in Biological Conservation, climate change and human development will soon erode the habitats of two Madagascan species. One may not survive.

The baobab A. perrieri is already scarce—the study's authors spotted only 99 trees in high-resolution satellite images. Because A. perrieri is adapted to specific conditions, climate change could shrink its habitat almost 70 percent by 2080. The second species, A. suarezensis, boasts a population in the thousands, but its range is small. The tree occupies a very particular rainfall niche, which in a changing climate could force its retreat to just 6.5 square miles of land by 2050. Even worse, A. suarezensis may face extinction by 2080. The trees are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Now, perhaps, both deserve critically endangered status.

This article was originally published with the title "Madagascar's Towering Baobab Trees on the Brink."

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