Identifying the global potential for baobab tree cultivation using ecological niche modelling
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- Sanchez, A.C., Osborne, P.E. & Haq, N. Agroforest Syst (2010) 80: 191. doi:10.1007/s10457-010-9282-2
The benefits provided by underutilised fruit tree species such as baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) in combating increasing malnutrition and poverty become more apparent as awareness grows regarding concerns of climate change and food security. Due to its multiple uses, its high nutritional and medicinal value, drought tolerance and relatively easy cultivation, baobab has been identified as one of the most important edible forest trees to be conserved, domesticated and valued in Africa. In order to contribute towards the cultivation of the species, suitability of sites in Africa and worldwide was evaluated for potential cultivation using species’ locality data and spatial environmental data in MAXENT modelling framework. A total of 450 geo-referenced records of the baobab tree were assembled from herbarium records, commercial firm’s databases and fieldwork for modelling site suitability for global cultivation of the baobab tree. Climatic and topographic data were acquired from the Worldclim data while soil data was obtained from the Harmonized World Soil Database. MAXENT was found to be a successful modelling method for studying cultivation potential. The main variables that contributed towards predicting baobab’s global cultivation potential were annual precipitation and temperature seasonality. Results suggest that baobab tree could be widely cultivated in most countries in southern Africa and in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of West Africa from Senegal to Sudan. Angola and Somalia were found to be highly suitable for cultivating baobab in Africa. Model suggests, India, where the baobab tree already exists and is used, to be the most suitable country for baobab cultivation outside Africa. North-west Australia, Madagascar, north-east Brazil and Mexico resulted to be other suitable places for cultivating the tree species. Although it is recommended model results be validated with in situ seedling experiments, there seems to be a great potential for the cultivation of this species globally.