50,000 years old forest discovered under water

Rafal Chudy

Near the coast of Alabama, scuba divers discovered a primeval underwater forest. The cypress forest was protected in an oxygen-free environment for more than 50 thousands years. Most likely, the forest was uncovered from ocean sediments by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Ben Raines, one of the first divers who explored the underwater forest, said that forest contained trees so well-preserved that when they were cut, the still smelled like fresh Cypress sap.

The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) stumps span an area of at least 0.5 square miles (1.3 square kilometer) and sit about 60 feet (18 meters) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, several miles from the coast of Mobile in Alabama.

After the discovery, Ben Raines invited researchers from University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana State University to learn more about the forest. The research team created a sonar map of the area and analyzed two samples Raines took from trees.

Carbon isotopes revealed that the trees were about 52,000 years old and sonar map presented is below.

sonar-map

Credit: University of Southern Mississippi Department of Marine Science

Interestingly, the trees’ growth rings contain thousands of years of climate history for the region. A dendrochronologist Grant Harley, from the University of Southern Mississippi, said:

These stumps are so big, they’re upwards of two meters in diameter — the size of trucks […].They probably contain thousands of growth rings.

Dendrochronologist Grant Harley

Therefore, it is only the matter of time, when researchers will reveal secrets about the climate of the Gulf of Mexico thousands of years ago. But unfortunately they do not have plenty of time, as forest is exposed now and is decaying quite rapidly.

Nevertheless, let us wait patiently for researchers’ peer-review article with results about this amazing discovery.

This article was originally published in Forest Monitor

Featured image: Video grab of Alabama’s Underwater Forest/Maxi Cardozo