Planet's oldest fossilized forest uncovered in abandoned New York quarry

The expert's findings depict a time when the planet went from having no forests, transforming into a landscape covered in trees.

Central Catskills Mountains from Twin south summit (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Central Catskills Mountains from Twin south summit
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
The fossils of the oldest forest ever identified have been unearthed in an abandoned quarry in Cairo, New York, according to a report published in Current Biology.
The petrified trees discovered in the quarry were estimated to be about two or three million years older than those located in the Gilboa forest in Upstate New York, which until now had been considered to be the oldest prehistoric forest by archaeologists and researchers.
The trees were dated to be from the Mid-Devonian period (393–383 million years ago), which was a climacteric point in Earth's history when permanent changes to terrestrial ecology, geochemical cycles, atmospheric CO² levels and climate awakened due to the presence of these first forests.
Experts working together across seas, from the universities in Cardiff to Binghamton, as well as the New York State Museum, began their research into the site located in the Catskill Mountains more than a decade ago.
"From a fossil soil (palaeosol) in the Catskill region near Cairo NY, USA, we report evidence of the oldest forest (mid Givetian) yet identified worldwide. Similar to the famous site at Gilboa, NY, we find treefern-like Eospermatopteris (Cladoxylopsida)," the Current Biology report read, adding that they also uncovered a second specie of tree, called Archaopteris.
"Along with a single enigmatic root system potentially belonging to a very early rhizomorphic lycopsid, we see spectacularly extensive root systems here assigned to the lignophyte group containing the genus Archaeopteris" that thrived in a drier climate, in which the researchers believe the Cairo forest grew.
Dr. Chris Berry of Cardiff University in Wales co-authored the study and spoke with the BBC about the expert findings. He said that they discovered long-wooded roots that transposed the way in which plants and soil collect water and draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, adding that they believe the forest was wiped out by a major flood millions of years ago.
The findings depict a time when the planet went from having no forests, to being transformed into a landscape covered in trees.
"This is the oldest place where you can wander around and map out where fossil trees were standing back in the middle part of the Devonian era," Berry said. "It's a very ancient forest from the beginnings of the time when the planet was turning green and forests were becoming a normal part of the Earth's system."
Professor Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway, University of London, claimed that this is the earliest finding of a fossilized forest to date, adding that the world of paleontology is full of eye-opening discoveries like the one portrayed in the study.
"It may well be that in the future, something even older pops up – paleontology is full of surprises!" Falcon-Lang told the BBC. "But for the time being, this is incredibly exciting."