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понедельник, 23 декабря 2019 г.

Scientists uncover world's oldest forest

Scientists have discovered remnants of the world's oldest fossil forest in a sandstone quarry in Cairo, New York.

Scientists uncover world's oldest forest
The rooting system of the ancient tree Archaeopteris at the Cairo fossil Forest site
 [Credit: Charles Ver Straeten]
It is believed the extensive network of trees, which would have spread from New York all the way into Pennsylvania and beyond, is around 386 million years old.

This makes the Cairo forest around 2 or 3 million years older than what was thought to be the world's oldest forest at Gilboa, also in New York State and around 40 km away from the Cairo site.

The new findings, which have been published in the journal Current Biology, have thrown new light on the evolution of trees and the transformative role they played in shaping the world we live in today.

A team led by scientists at Binghamton University, New York State Museum and Cardiff University have mapped over 3,000 square meters of the forest at the abandoned quarry in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley.

Scientists uncover world's oldest forest
Researchers cleaning the surface of the fossil forest at Cairo, New York 
[Credit: William Stein]
Their investigations showed that the forest was home to at least two types of trees: cladoxylopsids, primitive tree-fern-like plants, which lacked flat green leaves, and which also grew in vast numbers at Gilboa; and Archaeopteris, which had a conifer-like woody trunk and frond-like branches which had green flattened leaves.

A single example of a third type of tree was also uncovered, which remained unidentified but could possibly have been a lycopod. All these trees reproduced using only spores rather than seeds.

The team also reported a 'spectacular' and extensive network of roots which were more than eleven meters in length in some places which belonged to the Archaeopteris trees.

It is these long-lived woody roots, with multiple levels of branching and small, short-lived perpendicular feeder roots, that transformed the interactions of plants and soils and were therefore pivotal to the co-evolution of forests and the atmosphere, the researchers state.