Looking for Climate Change in world’s oldest trees

  • Dr. Chris Berry, a paleobotanist based out of Cardiff University, has co-authored a team study of fossilized cladoxylopsids, as they look for evidence of Climate Change in the world’s oldest trees. These ancient trees have an internal structure that is unlike anything living today.

    “There is no other tree that I know of in the history of Earth that has ever done anything as complicated as this. The tree simultaneously ripped its skeleton apart and collapsed under its own weight while staying alive and growing upwards and outwards to become the dominant plant of its day.

    “By studying these extremely rare fossils, we’ve gained an unprecedented insight into the anatomy of our earliest trees and the complex growth mechanisms that they employed.

    “This raises a provoking question: why are the very oldest trees the most complicated?”

    The specimen that was recently unearthed in China was fossilized in such a manner to allow the clearest examination and understanding of these ancient trees that has ever been undertaken.

    “Previous examples of these trees have filled with sand when fossilised, offering only tantalising clues about their anatomy. The fossilised trunk obtained from Xinjiang was huge and perfectly preserved in glassy silica as a result of volcanic sediments, allowing us to observe every single cell of the plant,” Berry was quoted as saying.

    He hopes to better understand the carbon capture capacity of these prehistoric trees, and their overall effect on the environment of their day.

    Bibliography:
    1. Hong-He Xu, Christopher M. Berry, William E. Stein, Yi Wang, Peng Tang, Qiang Fu. Unique growth strategy in the Earth’s first trees revealed in silicified fossil trunks from China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201708241 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1708241114