A tropical forest that lies beneath the Arctic ice

A tropical forest that lies beneath the Arctic ice

Under the ice of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle, an ancient tropical forest hides. What mysteries hidden in this huge and ancient fossil plant branches stone between

Inside the Arctic Circle, in the archipelago of Svalbard , nobody bet on trees only to find themselves the warmer weather. However, researchers say they’ve found all tropical forest buried under the ice . Stumps, remains of pollen and various structures show an unprecedented event: the islands were once a lush forest surrounded by trees full of strangers and a sticky hot mist. How can that be? The history of this small planet has more surprises than expected.

A forest of 380 million years

According to the data obtained they do, have been deducted by the type of remains found as well as the analysis of the fossilized “pollen”, the lower the ice of Svalbard forest could have no less than 380 million years . This takes you to the Devonian era, before one of the large extinctions of the earth (and that ended the 85% of the species). The forest is composed of Svalbard, say the researchers, from a species called Protolepidodendropsis pulchra , you lycopsidas very old plants. The lycopsidas, in turn, represent some of the oldest existing plant species on earth. The forest on Svalbard have seemed, at some point, a place full of strange trees, with thin, fleshy leaves, elongated and pointed. Probably almost everything that was in this forest so, with very little diversity.


Trees on Svalbard. . Cardiff University

But the most obvious question is how a tropical forest reaches the Arctic Circle? Well, we travel back in time to find out. About 380 million years ago the first seed plants were dominant in one world into two supercontinents : Laurasia and Gondwana. These are the precursors of Pangea, the great continent that would become the area we know today. At that time, the temperature was much warmer and tropical, with an atmosphere “recently” enriched oxygen. The land that many millions of years later became Svalbard was part of Laurasia and, of course, had its own forest lycopsidos on the surface.

Svalbard, the importance of forest frozen

Over time, the forest was buried and eventually fossilized. Meanwhile, the continents continued their slow evolution in plate tectonics. Finally, the frozen forest Svalbard ended where it is right now, inside the Arctic Circle. The next question, therefore, is what tells us this forest? How important is it? Well, this answer is not so simple. But oversimplify, we can say that the story that this forest allows us to understand better how life was born. For example, we know that twenty million years after the average dated in this forest, probably between its branches appeared the first amphibians. And they appeared precisely by increasing oxygen to contributing these lycopsidos.

We know that twenty million years later, probably between its branches appeared the first amphibians But we can venture further. According to the researchers, this forest represents a third type of transitional forest, apart from small forests similar to the tree ferns and the likely ancestors of today’s conifers . That is, the forest under the ice of Svalbard is a moving image, fossilized, how plants conquered the land rose around him, evolving. As mentioned, this dense forest probably had a pretty poor biodiversity.


Artist’s concept of a Dunkleosteus . Frasnian | Geofrik

What about the animals? Well, as we have also said, the first amphibians began to leave the water a few million years later. While most complex animals were still under water. So, if we could walk among the trees of the Devonian almost certainly we would find only plants. And, well, some arthropods. Although there is a large number of remains, the ancestors of insects may have left the water a few million years before . So probably, in between the branches of forest we would find pseudoscorpions Svalbard, scorpions, mites and large, why not, a winged insect. For now the issue is to continue working to discover more about this forest: how his ecology? And vegetables its residents? All this has only one important goal, to know more about the mysterious origins of life.


A tropical forest that lies beneath the Arctic ice
Source: english  
November 21, 2015

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