In the Altiplano in Peru, the paleontologists discovered a strange fossil during the exploration of the Central Andean Plateau. It turned out that the fossil are the remains of a giant tree that is at least 10 million years old. The study of its preserved particles will demonstrate to the scientists the state of the ancient climate on the Earth. The expiration date of that forest giant turned out to be borderline with the Neogene period. And the South American climate at that time was more humid than science previously believed.
The fossil of a tree proves that fact. By studying the features of the ancient tree, the scientists hope not only to learn about the state of the climate of the past, but also to make predictions for the future.
Camila Martinez from the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research in Panama believes that the tree, like hundreds of other fossil wood samples, proves that the ecosystem was abundant in moisture during their growth, and much more than previously compiled climate models imagined. Probably, the air temperature was much higher during the period when the tree was formed millions of years ago. Over the past 10 million, a lot has changed on the planet. The area where the fossilized tree was found has turned from a wet ecosystem into an arid and empty zone.
Other plant fossils, identified as early as 5 million years old, suggest that much of the climate shift has already occurred. Traces of grasses, ferns, shrubs suggest that the soil has become drier, the climate is more arid, similar to today. It could not support the growth of giant plants like a tree that is 10 million years old.
The conventional fossil record in that place shows the scientists at what height the vegetation was, and what sharp changes occurred to it in a relatively short period. It means that the territory was subject to tectonic changes, and they happened impulsively and inconsistently. It is not yet clear how today's changes in climatic conditions will affect the Central Andean Plateau and the neighboring Amazon basin.
In the coming years, complex climatic feedback loops that can work to destroy the remaining favorable climatic conditions for some plant species can form. The theory that tectonic changes could be associated with a decrease in precipitation, drying up of water bodies, turned out to be the opposite of the conclusions that the scientists previously made.
But in a sense, filling in the gaps in the evolutionary development of the planet through the study of ancient remains of vegetation will help to make predictions about the future climate.