Home News Scientists draw dinosaur era’s forest map

Scientists draw dinosaur era’s forest map

UK: Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, plotted maps of the earth’s forests at the time of the dinosaurs. The patterns of vegetation, together with information about the rate of tree growth, support the idea that the earth was stifling hot 100 million years ago.
Scientists plotted the maps after creating a database of more than two thousand fossilised forest sites from the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs were at their peak.
Emiliano Peralta-Medina, scientist who led the study said, “Our research shows that weird monkey puzzle forests covered most of the planet, especially in the steamy tropics. At mid-latitudes there were dry cypress woodlands, and near the North Pole it was mostly pines.” The study further reveals that at that time the humid tropics extended over a wider area than now, and temperate climates – like the UK’s – reached much closer to the poles, which had more tree cover than ice. It seems though, that just before the dinosaurs went extinct the forests changed as angiosperms – flowering plants – made an appearance.
The team also gathered measurements of tree rings – which indicate annual growth rate – from samples of fossil trees and from earlier studies. They found that Cretaceous trees grew twice as fast as their modern counterparts, particularly nearer to the poles.
“Some fossil trees from Antarctica had rings more than two millimeters wide on average. Such a rate of growth is usually only seen in trees growing in temperate climates. It tells us that, during the age of the dinosaurs, polar regions had a climate similar to Britain today”, explained co-author Dr Howard Falcon-Lang.
The reason for this baking hot climate seems to have been extremely high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) compared to 393 ppm today.
‘If carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise unabated, we will hit Cretaceous levels in less than 250 years,’ stated Falcon-Lang. “If that happens, we could see forests return to Antarctica. However, it is unlikely that dinosaurs will be making a comeback.”