300-Million-Year-Old Tropical Forest Buried In Volcanic Ash Discovered In China
A 300-million-year-old tropical forest preserved by volcanic ash in Inner Mongolia, China has been studied and reconstructed in paintings.
AsianScientist (Feb. 23, 2012) – Chinese and American paleobotanists studying a 300-million-year-old tropical forest preserved by volcanic ash in Inner Mongolia, China have presented reconstructions of this fossilized forest, giving us a glimpse of the ecology and climate of that time.
The ancient forest, found buried under a coal mine near Wuda in China, was well preserved by falling ash from a volcanic eruption that covered a large expanse of forest in a matter of days.
“It’s marvelously preserved,” said Prof. Hermann Pfefferkorn, one of the authors of the study that will be published next week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“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 researchers also found some smaller trees with leaves, branches, trunk, and cones intact, preserved in their entirety.
They examined the ash layer in three different sites located near one another, covering a total of 1,000 square meters – an area large enough for the local paleoecology to be characterized.
The ash layer was dated to approximately 298 million years ago. That falls at the beginning of a geologic period called the Permian, during which Earth’s continental plates were still moving toward each other to form the supercontinent Pangea.
Guided by the researchers’ findings, artist Ren Yugao used paintings to reconstruct what the three different sites would have looked like 298 million years ago.
This is the first such forest reconstruction in Asia for any time interval.
Source: University of Pennsylvania; Painting by Ren Yugao.
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