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Fossilised tree
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Oldest fossilised forest revealed

An international tea, including a Cardiff University researcher who previously found evidence of the Earth's earliest tree, has gone one step further.
The research team has now unearthed and investigated an entire fossil forest dating back 385 million years.
The Gilboa fossil forest, in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, is generally referred to as 'the oldest fossil forest'. Yet by scientific standards it has remained mythical.

560688115_413b325f80_o.gifFossils of hundreds of large tree stumps (the 'Gilboa tree') preserved in the rocks were discovered in the 1920s during excavation of a quarry to extract rock to build the nearby Gilboa Dam. Only sketchy information was recorded about the geological context of the fossil stumps, the soil the trees were growing in, and the spacing of trees bases. Following completion of the dam the quarry was backfilled. Until now, the only way the Gilboa fossil forest could be investigated was from museum specimens and from small exposures of other levels in nearby streams.
In May 2010, the quarry was partially emptied as part of a dam maintenance project. Researchers were monitoring the site with contractors, Thaille Construction Company and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Professor Bill Stein, Binghamton University and Frank Mannolini, the New York State Museum spotted that the original quarry floor had been exposed, and that the roots and positions of the trunk bases had been preserved.

"For the first time we were able to arrange for about 1,300 square meters to be cleaned off for investigation. A map of the position of all the plant fossils preserved on that surface was made" - Dr Chris Berry, Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

The researcher's findings are published in the journal Nature (1st March).

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'Chinese Pompeii' yields 300 million-year-old secrets

Researchers have unearthed a forest in northern China preserved under a layer of ash deposited 300 million years ago.
Preservation of the forest, just west of the Inner Mongolian district of Wuda, has been likened to that of the Italian city of Pompeii.
The researchers were able to "reconstruct" nearly 1,000 sq m of the forest's trees and plant distributions.

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Wuda Fossilised forest
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Penn Researcher Helps Discover and Characterise a 300-Million-Year Old Forest

Pompeii-like, a 300-million-year-old tropical forest was preserved in ash when a volcano erupted in what is today northern China. A new study by University of Pennsylvania paleobotanist Hermann Pfefferkorn and colleagues presents a reconstruction of this fossilized forest, lending insight into the ecology and climate of its time.
Pfefferkorn, a professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science, collaborated on the work with three Chinese colleagues: Jun Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yi Zhang of Shenyang Normal University and Zhuo Feng of Yunnan University.
Their paper will be published next week in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Petrified Forest National Park
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Petrified Forest adds 26,000 acres of private land

The federal government is gaining control over an even larger expanse of rainbow-coloured petrified wood, fossils from the dawning age of dinosaurs and petroglyphs left by American Indian tribes who once lived in eastern Arizona.
The National Park Service secured the first major private ranch within the Petrified Forest National Park boundaries on Thursday, capping off negotiations that began years ago with the help of a conservation group.

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'Early wood' samples reshape plant history

A study of fossilised plant samples has shown that woody plants probably first appeared about 10 million years earlier than previously thought.
The 400-million-year-old samples revealed rings of cells characteristic of wood, a team of scientists observed.
They also suggested that the woody substance appeared to be a mechanism to transport water rather than acting as a support to allow plants to grow taller.

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Secondary xylem
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Scientists find early traces of wood structure in plants

The oldest traces of simple wood have been identified in small fossil plants dating from the early Devonian period, about 400 million years ago.
Before this, scientists who study fossil plants hadn't thought that plants developed wood-like structures, or secondary xylem, until millions of years later when their stems reached nearly a centimetre in diameter, said study coauthor Patricia Gensel of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Conifer cones
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Predation and protection in the macroevolutionary history of conifer cones

Conifers are an excellent group in which to explore how changing ecological interactions may have influenced the allocation of reproductive tissues in seed plants over long time scales, because of their extensive fossil record and their important role in terrestrial ecosystems since the Palaeozoic. Measurements of individual conifer pollen-producing and seed-producing cones from the Pennsylvanian to the Recent show that the relative amount of tissue invested in pollen cones has remained constant through time, while seed cones show a sharp increase in proportional tissue investment in the Jurassic that has continued to intensify to the present day. Since seed size in conifers has remained similar through time, this increase reflects greater investment in protective cone tissues such as robust, tightly packed scales. This shift in morphology and tissue allocation is broadly concurrent with the appearance of new vertebrate groups capable of browsing in tree canopies, as well as a diversification of insect-feeding strategies, suggesting that an important change in plant-animal interactions occurred over the Mesozoic that favoured an increase in seed cone protective tissues.
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Mummified forest
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Ancient forest emerges mummified from the Arctic

The northernmost mummified forest ever found in Canada is revealing how plants struggled to endure a long-ago global cooling.
Researchers believe the trees -- buried by a landslide and exquisitely preserved 2 to 8 million years ago -- will help them predict how today's Arctic will respond to global warming.
They also suspect that many more mummified forests could emerge across North America as Arctic ice continues to melt. As the wood is exposed and begins to rot, it could release significant amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- and actually boost global warming.
Joel Barker, a research scientist at Byrd Polar Research Centre and the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University and leader of the team that is analysing the remains, will describe early results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Friday, December 17.

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The fossilised remains of a South American forest buried by volcanic ash
are providing scientists with a detailed look at a tropical forest ecosystem from millions of years ago.
The petrified forest, known as El Bosque Petrificado Piedra Chamana, covers a 1-by-0.5-kilometer area in northwestern Peru, Deborah Wood****, a paleoclimatologist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and her colleagues report in the July-August GSA Bulletin. Fossils at the site include both large tree trunks and leaves - a rarity for low-latitude forests, since tropical heat dramatically accelerates the decomposition of organic matter. Analyses of leaf size and shape hint that the average annual temperature at the site around 39.4 million years ago, when the forest was growing, was above 25 Celsius.

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Massive fossil forests dating back millions of years have been found in Illinois coal mines, a British researcher says.
Howard Falcon-Lang told the British Association Science Festival in Liverpool the fossil forests are the largest ever found, the BBC reported Tuesday. He said the fossils cover an area the size of Bristol.
The discovery of the first fossil forest in the region along the Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky borders was reported last year. Scientists have since found five more, the report said.


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