A 300-million-year-old tropical forest has been discovered under volcanic ash in northern china. The fossilized forest will give researchers a rare chance to examine an ecosystem that has been frozen in time.
Science Daily reports that the remnants of the forest have been extremely well preserved by the volcanic ash. University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist Hermann Pfefferkorn, who led the study in Wuda, China, said:
“It’s marvelously preserved. We can stand there and find a branch with the leaves attached, and then we find the next branch and the next branch and the next branch. And then we find the stump from the same tree. That’s really exciting.”
The CS Monitor reports that the forest was covered by close to 40 inches of volcanic ash. Jun Wang, one of the lead authors of the study at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in China, said:
“This ash-fall buried and killed the plants, broke off twigs and leaves, toppled trees, and preserved the forest remains in place within the ash layer.”
Researchers have conducted studies in three separate areas near Wuda, China, and have found 6 groups of trees. Tree ferns in the 300-million-year-old forest formed a lower canopy while taller trees, Sigillaria and Cordaites, grew 80 feet tall. Researchers also discovered Noeggerathiales trees which are now extinct.
According to the study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, the volcanic ash was determined to be about 298 million years old. Which means the preserved plants come from the Permian Period, when the Supercontinent Pangea was being formed.
While Hermann Pfefferkorn and his team study the 300-million-year-old forest, a team in Russia are working on bringing ancient plants back to life. A team of Russian scientists regenerated a 30,000 year old ice age flower today.