Lost forests? We humans have such short memories, don’t we? It’s hard to blame a species that at best can hope to live for a century. But for trees, for whom some scientists insisting them to be biologically immortal, they live much longer than us.
Most trees planted by us will outlive us, and most in forests have seen generations of humans come and go. In virgin forests, trees that survive forest fires and disease live to be hundreds and thousands of years old.
If trees could talk, imagine what they could tell us. Already, through the study of living and dead trees, we can understand the history of our world. Tree rings can tell us of how climate has changed, or of big events such as fire or disease. Fossilized specimens in tree resins preserve ancient DNA of flora and fauna.
The surprising thing is, as much as we know about our world, there’s still so much left to find. Did you know that since the turn of the millenium we’ve discovered some of the world’s oldest lost forests?
In this week’s blog post, TreeCoin takes a closer look at some of the significant discoveries of old forests.
Mount Lico (Mozambique)
We start our journey on the African continent, where scientists in 2018 made a startling find inside an ancient dead volcano. To scale Mount Lico, which was last active probably thousands of years ago, researchers had to climb 125-meter tall cliffs.
Believed to be among the most pristine jungles on Earth, Mount Lico’s biosphere is truly unique. It is thought to never have been touched by humans. And life is teeming there. According to reports, caterpillars are so numerous in the trees that “their droppings fall like a dry, soft rain”.
Maybe caterpillar dropping rain isn’t your cup of tea, but this secret rainforest has tons of other finds. The first exploration alone found new species of caecilian, shrew, snub-nosed rodent, butterflies, crabs and flowering plants.
Mount Mabu (Mozambique)
It’s not unfair that the same country should host TWO of the world’s most significant finds of lost forests. A decade before Mount Lico, with the help of Google Earth, biologists found Mount Mabu. Thought to be the largest such forest in Africa, it revealed new species of butterfly, snake, and even a pygmy chameleon.
Civil war had ravaged the lands around it, but also perhaps aided in its preservation. Today, the state has agreed to protect this lost forest from human encroachment and exploitation.
Dr Julian Bayliss, who headed the expedition to Mount Mabu, spoke about the rare find in a 2013 video. He said:
“People say there’s nothing left to discover in this world… the knowledge information that we could benefit from as humankind could be sitting here all around us.”
New York (The United States of America)
A forest in New York, one of the world’s most heavily developed urban areas? Not quite, but it still counts!
Last month, digging in a sandstone quarry there, researchers found a prehistoric forest roughly 386 million years old. It is on record as the world’s oldest known fossil forest. It is a treasure trove of knowledge, offering new understanding into how trees transformed our world.
This incredible find, based on fossil evidence, is a forest without large animals; a feature which makes it quite unique. It existed before dinosaurs, vertebrates and even birds, with only insect-like creatures around.
Its trees would also appear alien to us, with species like Cladoxylopsid and Archaeopteris instead of oak or birch. The former are 10m-tall leafless trunks with short branches and ribbonlike roots. The latter had hairy, fern-like fronds for leaves!
Norfolk (United Kingdom)
100 centuries ago, you could walk from the British Isles to Germany — no need for ferry crossings or tunnels.
Connecting modern-day England to mainland Europe was a prehistoric landmass known as Doggerland. Scientists theorized Doggerland would have consisted of forests, salt marshes, hills and estuaries.
In 2018, a startling find by diver Dawn Watson helped confirm these theories. Hidden for centuries behind sediment, forests of oak had a second life as a natural barrier reef. But when a storm battered the Norfolk coast in 2014, it shifted thousands of tons of sand, revealing the ancient submerged forest. It is believed these trees were flattened by a 5-meter tall tsunami, wiping out trees and early hill tribes living there.
A potent reminder that climate change and rising oceans could easily flood lands and forests? Through science, we already learn a lot from trees even in their silence.
At TreeCoin, we believe there is still much to learn, which is why we believe in conservation and preservation. Our work in aforestation and replanting hopefully allows existing forests to continue on for generations. Let us work to preserve our forests that our children (and theirs) can inherit our planet’s memories.