An Archaeopteris root system on the fossil forest site in Cairo
Scientists believe that the forest to which they belonged was so massive that it initially stretched beyond Pennsylvania.
This discovery is believed to be two to three million years older in Cairo, New York, than what was considered the world’s oldest forest in Gilboa, also in New York State.
The findings shed new light on trees ‘ evolution.
Experts from Cardiff University, UK, Binghamton University in the US, and the New York State Museum started looking at the site in the foothills of the Hudson Valley’s Catskill Mountains more than 10 years ago.
Researchers have since surveyed the forest more than 3,000 square meters and concluded that the forest was home to at least two types of trees: cladoxylopsids and archaeopteris.
There is still a third type of tree to be identified.
Cardiff University’s Palaeobotanist Dr Chris Berry is a co-author of the study in the Current Biology journal.
Researchers say they have also found very long woody roots that have transformed the storage of water by plants and soils.
Dr Berry said:”It’s a very ancient forest from the beginnings of the time where the planet was turning green and forests were becoming a normal part of the Earth’s system,”.
The forest was wiped out by a flood, it is understood. Researchers found fish fossils on the quarry’s surface.
The point in time the fossil trees date to mark a transition between a forest-free planet and a largely treed planet.
Dr. Berry says researching the site will give us a better understanding of how trees have evolved and how they extract from the atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2).
Dr. Berry added:”We’re well aware at the moment that having forests is a good thing and burning down forests and deforestation is a bad thing.
Professor Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway, London says that there is no doubt that this is the earliest fossilised forest we know of.
Prof Howard Falcon-Lan added that:”It may well be that in the future, something even older pops up – palaeontology is full of surprises! But for the time being, this is incredibly exciting.”


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