Researchers date age of China's oldest-known forest

Researchers from China and the United States released the result of a joint study showing China's oldest forest dates back to 371 million years ago.

The ancient forest was in Tacheng Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said Professor Xu Honghe of Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the leader of the research.

In 2015, researchers found a fossil plant stem of 70 cm-diameter in Tacheng. The plant can grow up to more than 4 meters and is one of the oldest-known trees, forming the oldest-known forest in China, Xu said.

Xu's team conducted a more detailed geological survey and isotope chronology research on fossil materials this time. They, for the first time, dated the age of the Tacheng forest to 371 million years ago, more than 10 million years earlier than the Carboniferous Period when ancient forests appeared on a large scale.

"Palaeogeological studies show that over 300 million years ago, the area where the forest was located was warm and humid, with tall tropical plants, but now, it is dry and desolate, a totally different scene," Xu said.

Related results are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.