Worlds oldest fossil forest discovered in NY
Scientists have been able to discover what appears to be the worlds oldest fossil forest in an abandoned New York Sandstone quarry.
A team led by scientists from Cardiff University, Binghamton University in New York, as well as New York State Museum, have mapped out 3,000 square metres of the forgotten forest in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley.
The previous known oldest fossil forest Gilboa was also from the New York state. The newly discovered forest dates back about 386 million years which is about 3 million years older than Gilboa.
According to Chris Berry from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Fossil forests are extremely rare. He says that to understand how trees began to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we need to understand the ecology and habitats of the very earliest forests.
The scientists have been able to identify about two types of trees this forest would have included. They are cladoxylopsids, primitive tree-fern-like plants, which lacked flat green leaves, and Archaeopteris, which had a conifer-like woody trunk and frond-like branches with green flattened leaves. Archaeopteris also featured enormous woody roots, which had not previously been seen in forests of this era.
However this forest rarely had any wildlife due to the fact that the first dinosaur appeared on earth 150 million years later. And also there were no vertebrates on land and no birds during that time.
primary occupants were millipede-like creatures, called myriapods, and some other primitive insects that may or may not have begun to fly.
“It is surprising to see plants which were previously thought to have had mutually exclusive habitat preferences growing together on the ancient Catskill delta.This would have looked like a fairly open forest with small to moderate sized coniferous-looking trees with individual and clumped tree-fern like plants of possibly smaller size growing between them”
says Co-author of the study Dr Chris Berry, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. He also said that , “In order to really understand how trees began to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we need to understand the ecology and habitats of the very earliest forests, and their rooting systems.
“These remarkable findings have allowed us to move away from the generalities of the importance of large plants growing in forests, to the specifics of which plants, in which habitats, in which types of ecology were driving the processes of global change.
“We have literally been able to drill into the fossil soil between the trees and are now able to investigate geochemical changes to the soil with our colleagues at Sheffield University.
“We are really getting a handle on the transition of the Earth to a forested planet.”