Ancient Forest Found Off Coast of Alabama

Updated June 20, 2019, originally posted on July 11, 2013

Sonar map of underwater cypress forest

LiveScience reports that a primeval Bald Cypress forest has been found off the coast of Alabama. The image above shows a sonar map of the underwater cypress forest.

Dr. Grant Harley from the University of Southern Mississippi is studying the ancient forest. A release from the university says the forest could be 80,000 years old. Dr. Harley says the trees were huge and "probably looked like massive redwood trees before becoming submerged."

The forest was buried under sediment on the ocean floor where it was preserved by the oxygen-free environment. Scientists believe this environment protected the trees for at least 50,000 years before it was uncovered by hurricanes and tropical storms, possibly even Hurricane Katrina. Scientists hope to study the growth rings in the trees and learn more about the region's climate thousands of years ago. They will have to hurry before sea creatures break down the dead wood and burrow into it, which can make the wood impossible to date.

Update: Here is a fascinating documentary about the discovery called The Underwater Forest.

Image: D. Dodd and K. Barbor, USM