Winterbach Christiaan

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Winterbach
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Christiaan
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Age, growth and death of a national icon: the historic Chapman baobab of Botswana

2019-11-05 , Patrut, Adrian , Woodborne, Stephan , Patrut, Roxana T. , Hall, Grant , Rakosy, Laszlo , Winterbach, Christiaan , von Reden, Karl F.

The year 2016 witnessed the fall of a symbol of the botanical world: the historic Chapman baobab of Botswana. This article presents the results of our investigation of the standing and fallen tree. The Chapman baobab had an open ring-shaped structure composed of six partially fused stems. Several wood samples collected from the stems prior and after their collapse were analysed by using radiocarbon dating. The radiocarbon date of the oldest sample was 1381 ± 22 BP, which corresponds to a calibrated age of 1345 (+10, −15) calendar years. The dating results show that the six stems of the Chapman baobab belonged to three different generations, which were 1350–1400, 800–1000 and 500–600 years old. The growth rate variation of the largest and oldest stem is presented and correlated with the climate evolution in the area over the past 1000 years. The factors that determined the sudden fall and death of the Chapman baobab are also presented and discussed.