Friday, September 12, 2008

Discovery of fossilized forest amazes scientists, worries climate watchers

Scientists are studying the fossilized remains of six forests in an Illinois coal mine, at 300 million-years-old these are some of the first forests on earth, reports the BBC.

The find is huge. It stretches across an area the size of Bristol (a UK city, remember, this is a BBC report). And since coal miners have removed all the coal (what used to be the soil on the forest floor), researchers are able to examine fossilized tree stumps, trunks, roots and leaves. Many specimens are in terrific shape. "We found 30m-long trunks that had fallen with their crowns perfectly preserved," said one scientist.

What's particularly relevant for this day and age is when these forests were wiped out. 300 million years ago, the Earth was in the midst of rapid climate change. Ice caps were melting and "a greenhouse climate" was emerging. The result? "Long-lived forests dominated by giant club moss trees almost overnight (in a geological sense) are replaced by rather weedy fern vegetation."

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.