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Warming temps could revive ancient forest

Sept. 21, 2012 at 6:46 PM

TORONTO, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Climate change in Canada's extreme north could bring about the return of forests like the ones that covered the region millions of years ago, a scientist said.

Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier of the University of Montreal has been studying a fossilized forest on Bylot Island in Nunavut that dates back 2.6 million to 3 million years.

"According to the data model, climate conditions on Bylot Island will be able to support the kinds of trees we find in the fossilized forest that currently exist there, such as willow, pine and spruce. I've also found evidence of a possible growth of oak and hickory near the study site during this period," Guertin-Pasquier, who presented his findings Friday at the Canadian Paleontology Conference in Toronto, said in a release. "Although it would of course take time for a whole forest to regrow, the findings show that our grandchildren should be able to plant a tree and watch it grow."

He said wood samples in the ancient forest have been preserved in peat and by permafrost.

"We studied the sediments in the forest and discovered pollen that are usually found in climates where the annual average temperature is around 0 degrees Celsius or 32 Fahrenheit," he said.

By comparison, current average conditions on Bylot Island are around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

"There is so much mystery that surrounds this forest -- for example, how these trees managed to survive the relentless dark of the Arctic winter," he said.

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