After its discovery in Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago, scientists have now claimed that the fossil forest was linked to climate shift which happened almost 380 million years ago, during the Devonian period.
By pure coincidence, this forest is situated near the Svalbard seed vault, a construction similar to Noah’s Ark but for plants, created in the case that a major catastrophic event happened, humans will still be able to repopulate the earth with various plants. This vault has the job of copying existing seeds from gene banks worldwide to provide a safety in case other seed banks are destroyed due to various climate or social elements.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built back in 1984 in an abandoned coal mine and until now houses over 10.000 seed samples from 2.000 cultivars for 300 species.
With the use of carbon dating techniques, researchers at the School of Earth and Ocean Science from the Cardiff University have estimated that the forest dates back to the late Devonian period, right before the major climate shift happened, lowering temperatures to the amounts we have today.
The ancient forest was probably living during the period in which plants shifted from smaller sized vegetation to full-blown forests with huge trees. Because of this, the atmosphere during that time suffered a major loss in carbon dioxide due to its consumption through the process of photosynthesis. The geographical location of the forest was completely different at that time because Norway was located about 30 degrees south of the equator.
During those ancient times, this forest was a sight to behold, its mainly lycopod composition of trees reaching 13 feet with an immense density, the gaps between the trees being at most around 20 centimeters. The forest was relatively high, reaching almost 15 feet in some cases.
Lycopods are ancient plants, dating back to 410 million years ago, and are characterized as the oldest plants to have vascular division. Its surviving relatives can be seen today and are commonly known as ferns and other seed plants. The main difference between the ancient fern and the one we have today is the vascularity of their leaves, lycopods having only one singular vascular channel per leaf while the fern has a complex vascular channel system.
Through the discovery of this forest, scientists have reached the conclusion that there was already a large diversity in plant life since ancient times. And by confirming that the fossil forest was linked to climate shift, they can better understand the way our planet reacts to certain changes in our vegetation.