Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago, in the Arctic Ocean. Recently, researchers from the United Kingdom discovered fossilized tropical forest. Forest is around 380 million years old, and comes from the times when Svalbard was near the equator that time.
Christopher Berry from Cardiff University and John Marshall from University of Southampton published recently an interesting article, where they described their unusual finding.
Researchers found tropical tree stumps during field work in the frigid latitudes. Fossilized tree stumps were classified as lycopids, also known as giant “club mosses” or “scale trees”. Trees were around 4 meters high and there were very small gaps (around 20 cm) between them.
See below how trees in fossil forest looked like almost 400 million years ago.
Although this is not the first finding of such forest on our globe, as couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about 300-Million-Year Old Forest preserved like Pompeii (found in China), definitely, this one in Svalbard is the oldest one found on Earth so far.
The reason why fossilized forest where found in Svalbard is explained by the movements of tectonic plates.
Svalbard was located on the equator around 380 million years ago, before the tectonic plate drifted by around 80 degrees to its current position in the Arctic Ocean. If you want to see how Svalbard shifted to Europe, I recommend you to watch Global Plate Reconstruction.
There is also another interesting implication behind this discovery. Currently, scientists had a theory suggesting that during the Devonian period (420-360 million years ago) there was a huge drop in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. There were only guesses what kind of factor caused such a significant drop. Some theories were pointing a change in vegetation from diminutive plants to the first large forest trees on the world. However, there was no scientific evidence, which supported any of such claims.
The recent discovery of researchers from UK, confirms that it could be true, that forests pulled CO2 out of the air through photosynthesis.
Dr Berry said: “These fossil forests shows us what the vegetation and landscape were like on the equator 380 million years ago, as the first trees were beginning to appear on the Earth”.
What is the most inspiring to me?
I found these scientific articles very inspiring. If you compare fossilized trees and reconstructions made by scientists (both from China and Norway), you will discover that they look almost identical. It looks that finally we (people) have found very strong evidences how first trees on the Earth were looking like. Thanks to such discoveries, we are able to explore our planet even more, and learn from the past what can happen in the future.
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The full article about finding in Norway can be found in the Geology journal here:
Lycopsid forests in the early Late Devonian paleoequatorial zone of Svalbard
Photo Credit: Cardiff University