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Ancient 298 Million Year Old Forest Found Beneath Coal Mine in China

Posted By Lori Zimmer On February 22, 2012 @ 8:30 am In News | 1 Comment

Pangea, ancient forest, Wuda China, preserved forest, ancient forest, 298 million year old forest, Herman Pfefferkorn, University of Pennsylvania, Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, Sigillaria, Cordaites, Noeggerthiales, Permian Era

Scientists just discovered an incredibly preserved 298-million-year-old forest buried deep beneath a coal mine in Wuda, China. The ancient forest in Inner Mongolia [1] was preserved by volcanic ash [2], much like Pompeii. Both Chinese and American scientists are marveling at finds of 80-foot-tall trees from the Permian Era, which provide an incredible snapshot of plant life 298 million years ago.

Pangea, ancient forest, Wuda China, preserved forest, ancient forest, 298 million year old forest, Herman Pfefferkorn, University of Pennsylvania, Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, Sigillaria, Cordaites, Noeggerthiales, Permian Era

Lead by the University of Pennsylvania’s Herman Pfefferkorn [3], the scientists have been studying the fossilized forest and they published a paper this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists [4]. The site was unearthed by machine when mining for the coal [5] that lies above the forest. Over 3,300 square feet of the ancient forest have been examined thus far in the layers of ash spewed by a volcano from another time.

The Permian period trees were alive at the time that the continents were connected into the super continent, Pangea [6]. Six groups of trees were discovered in the forest, including low tree ferns, 80-foot-high Sigillaria and Cordaites trees, and even an extinct spore-bearing tree called Noeggerathiales [7]. The ash preserved these trees so well that Pfefferkorn and his team could find branches with leaves attached.

Scientists estimate that the preserving layer of volcanic ash [8] fell over several days, totally engulfing the sprawling forest. The plants and trees that grew over the ash several hundred million years after were then slowly turned into the coal that is mined today. If it were not for the volcanic eruption, this forest would have turned into coal as well. This magnificent window to the ancient past is a rare time capsule that allows scientists to study Pangean Earth [6].

Via Gizmodo [9]


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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/ancient-298-million-year-old-forest-found-beneath-coal-mine-in-china/

URLs in this post:

[1] Inner Mongolia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_Mongolia

[2] volcanic ash: http://inhabitat.com/brand-new-smoking-island-rises-out-of-the-red-sea/

[3] University of Pennsylvania’s Herman Pfefferkorn: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-researcher-helps-discover-and-characterize-300-million-year-old-forest-preserved-pompeii

[4] Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists: http://www.pnas.org/

[5] mining for the coal: http://inhabitat.com/former-coal-mine-transformed-into-a-shining-cultural-center-in-belgium/

[6] Pangea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangaea

[7] Noeggerathiales: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noeggerathiales

[8] volcanic ash: http://inhabitat.com/scientists-design-a-fake-volcano-for-climate-change-experiment/

[9] Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5886774/extraordinary-298+million+year+old-forest-discovered-under-chinese-coal-mine

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