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Baobab forests UPSC NOTE

 Baobab

  • The baobab tree, also known as the upside-down tree, belongs to the Adansonia genus within the Malvaceae family, subfamily Bombacoideae

  • Adansonia is a genus made up of eight species of medium-to-large deciduous trees known as baobabs or adansonias. 

  • They are native to Madagascar, mainland Africa, and Australia

  • Six of the world’s eight baobab species are indigenous to Madagascar, where the distinctive trees with giant trunks have historically grown in huge forests

  • But these forests are threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture – 4,000 hectares of baobab forest in Madagascar are destroyed every year. 

  • Baobab trees can live for 1,000 years and one hectare of land can support eight fully grown baobab trees. 

  • But many have been left orphaned – standing alone in barren areas 

  • Mandu, in Madhya Pradesh, India, is a notable area where baobabs thrive

Why are baobab trees so important in Madagascar?

  • Baobab trees are symbols of landscape, profoundly significant to ecosystem and cultural heritage. 

  • They are valuable to rural women who pick their fruit and sell it to companies for use in food and cosmetic products

  • Baobab trees can save impoverished communities in periods when they most need the money.

  • Madagascar is also the home of the world’s rarest baobab, Adansonia perrieri

  • Unfortunately, baobab populations are under severe threat. 

  • The most pressing issue is deforestation, driven by slash-and-burn agriculture

  • Some communities live in such extreme poverty that they need to clear land with fire so that they can plant crops. 

  • Another significant problem for the baobab forests is the loss of large-bodied animals such as giant lemurs or giant tortoises

  • These animals played a crucial role in spreading the seeds of baobab trees in their dung

  • But they became extinct about 500 years ago

  • Without these animals, baobab seeds are not spread as effectively.

  • Climate change has made the situation worse. 

  • Increased dryness and irregular weather patterns negatively affect the growth and survival of baobab trees

  • As a result, it is now very rare to find a 20-year-old baobab seedling in the wild in Madagascar

  • It takes about 50 years for a baobab seedling to grow into a fruit-bearing tree.

How AI helped?

  • Group of Specialists Passionate about Baobabs of Madagascar  set up two nurseries made of low wooden greenhouses in partnership with communities. 

  • Together transplanted more than 50,000 baobab and other seedlings in February 2023. 

  • Data showed a seedling survival rate of 70% after replanting, which is incredibly high considering the dryness in forests.

  • They were able to partner with EOS Data Analytics, a company that specialises in using artificial intelligence to monitor the health of forests

  • They used satellite footage, algorithms and remote sensing to see how the seedlings were doing.

  • Comparing the same area with footage from 2020 revealed that since February 2023, plant and tree health has been significantly higher than in previous years

  • The positive effects of seedling transplantation appeared within months.

Madagascar

  • Madagascar is an island country comprising the island of Madagascar and numerous smaller peripheral islands. 

  • Lying off the southeastern coast of Africa, it is the world's fourth largest island, the second-largest island country 

  • Its capital and largest city is Antananarivo.

  • Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from Africa during the Early Jurassic, around 180 million years ago, and split from the Indian subcontinent around 90 million years ago

Madagascar

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Baobab forests UPSC NOTE
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