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Scientists discover world’s oldest rainforest

Scientists believe they have discovered what could be the oldest rainforest in the world in the State of New York in the US.

The discovery could help provide information on the links between forests, climate and climate change according to a study published on Thursday in Current Biology.

Until now, the oldest fossil forest belonged to a site in Gilboa, in the Catskills region, upstate New York, dating back to about 385 million years.

The new site is an ancient quarry in the same region, about forty kilometres further east, near the town of Cairo.

After 10 years of sampling and research, an international team of 11 scientists came to the conclusion that this forest could be “2 to 3 million years older,” and richer in tree varieties.

Gilboa tree fossil   © Wikimedia

The scientists found just as in Gilboa, traces of the “Eospermatopteris” type of primitive trees which resemble palm trees with a large base and a crown of leafless branches. However, they also discovered the more recent “Archaeopteris” type of plants.

The latter have “far more modern” features, with leaves and root systems comparable to spruce or pine trees, Binghamton University Professor William Stein, one of the authors of the study, explained to AFP.

These “more advanced” trees could help our understanding of how forests modernized, at a time when “the atmospheres CO2 level and temperatures were decreasing,” Stein said.

By studying this cooling process, we might better understand existing links between the current warming and deforestation, he concluded.

The Brussels Times

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