Far north, above the Arctic Circle, on a Canadian island without any trees, a rare mummified forest was discovered in December 2010 by researchers from Ohio State University. The forest isn’t rare because it’s mummified - those have been found in pockets all over the world - but because is offers a “peek into the way plants reacted to climate change millions of years ago,” one newspaper declared.
The forest, on Ellesmere Island, contains at least four different species of wood and tree leaves. The researcher responsible for its discovery found that the trees had been covered by an avalanche sometime between two and eight million years ago. They have been perfectly preserved. “These aren’t just fossils,” the researcher said. “You can burn this stuff. It’s just like wood you would find anywhere today.”
This is the 12th frozen forest that has been discovered in the Arctic, but it’s the furthest north, on the edge of where a forest could possibly grow. Scientists plan to test parts of the trees to determine the environmental conditions at the time the forest was covered by the avalanche, which will help them understand the climate and its changes over millions of years.
- Associated Press: "Mummified Forest Reveals Climate Change Clues, Discovered On Ellesmere Island" (December 2010): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/16/mummified-forest-climate-change_n_797953.html
- The Columbus Dispatch: 'OSU researcher finds mummified forest" (December 2010): http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/12/16/OSU_researcher_discovers_mummified_forest.html?sid=101
- American Geophysical Union: http://www.agu.org/