Relic equator forest rediscovered in Norway was major carbon sink when it grew during the Devonian period occurring 416 million to 358 million years ago.
This once tropical forest was packed with trees as tall as 12 feet parading their needly leaves. However, due to the continental drift, the relic equator forest was now rediscovered by scientists in Arctic Norway. This exciting finding makes the forest one of the oldest ones on Earth, dated to be approximately 380 million years old.
While reigning high in the equatorial region during the Devonian period, this forest became a major carbon sink. It would have contributed at the time to a significant drop in the heat-trapping gas and the cooling of the atmosphere that followed.
The forest has been named Svalbard’s forest. If we were to look to modern tropical forests to catch a glimpse of how it may have been at the time, we’re not looking in the right place. The relic equator forest, carried thousands of miles to the Arctic Norway was made up of ancient trees known as lycopsids. These are trees which sport single-veined leaves resembling needles and the reproduction of which is aided by spores. In our modern world there are still an estimate 1,200 lycopsids species.
The lycopsids of Svalbard’s forest, 13-foot-tall and displaced at about 0.7 feet distance from each other would have had trunks shaped at the basis as ovals or diamonds. The relic equator forest rediscovered in Norway was major carbon sink just as our planet’s first large trees were starting to evolve.
The link between the cooling of the atmosphere and the emergence of the first large trees is crucial to understand the role forests play in curbing greenhouse gas emissions still today. The global cooling of the atmosphere at the end of the Devonian period is consistently associated with the emergence of forests the likes of Svalbard’s forest.
The paper describing the recently rediscovered site and published in the Geology journal is intriguing to say the least. Scientists working in various areas have come to investigate the relic equator forest.
Rock-bore spores were analyzed to date the forest accurately and provide an in-depth understanding of the emergence of forests ecosystems and the role they played. Stumps and trunks still visible today only cover a restricted area. However, according to the scientists, much more lies underneath the surface, in the cliffs found in the vicinity.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia