300 Million-Year-Old Forest Preserved In Volcanic Ash

Scientists have uncovered an accent forest believed to exist 300 million-years ago, in what is now inner Mongolia, near the city of Wuda.

The researchers say that the tropical forest existed during the Permian age, a time when the earth’s land mass was one big supercontinent known as Pangaea.

The forest was preserved much like the Roman city of Pompeii was, when a nearby volcano erupted and covered it in volcanic ash, freezing the ancient ecosystem in time, giving researchers a chance to study it.

“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,” the authors, led by Jun Wang of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in China, wrote in an article published Monday (Feb. 20) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

So far, 3 separate sites with a total mass of 10.764 square feet has been mapped. They have studied the fossilized plants in the area and found the tallest trees in the forest creating the canopy grew to at least 82 feet tall with a lower canopy made of fern like trees. On the forest floor palm-like plants, and spore-like trees grew.

“It’s marvelously preserved,” University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist and study researcher Hermann Pfefferkorn said in a press release issued by the university. “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.”

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