The University of Arizona

Fire History of a Giant African Baobab Evinced by Radiocarbon Dating

A Patrut, D H Mayne, Karl F von Reden, Daniel A Lowy, Robert van Pelt, Ann P McNichol, Mark L Roberts, D Margineanu

Abstract


The article reports the first radiocarbon dating of a live African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.), by investigating wood samples collected from 2 inner cavities of the very large 2-stemmed Platland tree of South Africa. Some 16 segments extracted from determined positions of the samples, which correspond to a depth of up to 15-20 cm in the wood, were processed and analyzed by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Calibrated ages of segments are not correlated with their positions in the stems of the tree. Dating results indicate that the segments originate from new growth layers, with a thickness of several centimeters, which cover the original old wood. Four new growth layers were dated before the reference year AD 1950 and 2 layers were dated post-AD 1950, in the post-bomb period. Formation of these layers was triggered by major damage inside the cavities. Fire episodes are the only possible explanation for such successive major wounds over large areas or over the entire area of the inner cavities of the Platland tree, able to trigger regrowth.

Full Text:

PDF