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Thread: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

  1. #1
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    Default Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    Interesting, both in the actual remains, and what we can deduce from them.
    The oldest evidence of wildfire has been identified in South Wales.
    It takes the form of some truly ancient, charred remnants trapped in some truly ancient mudstone.
    And by ancient we're talking 430 million years ago, during the Silurian Period of Earth history.
    Back then, only a few pioneering plants had made it on to land, so what was it that caught fire and produced the charcoal? Most likely it was a forest of giant fungi.
    "The Silurian vegetation was very different to what it is today," explained palaeobotanist Ian Glasspool.
    "There were no woody plants at this time; most of the vegetation was very small. However, there was one giant that dwarfed the landscape. There's a very enigmatic fossil called Prototaxites.
    "It grew anything up to 8m in height, and about a metre in diameter. A sort of funky, humongous fungus; erect, very phallic structures; pillars of fungus that could weigh up to 10 metric tonnes," he told the Science In Action programme on the BBC World Service.
    <snip>
    And in doing so, this science reveals something else about Earth during the Silurian: the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.
    The concentration of O2 in the air today is about 21%, but early in Earth's history it was much less. It took photosynthetic algae in the oceans millions of years to terraform the planet.
    Dr Glasspool said: "For fires to propagate, you really need three things: A source of fuel, which, surprisingly, we seem to have in sufficient amounts in the Silurian; you need a source of ignition, which is lightning strikes as the most likely source; and then you need at least 16% atmospheric oxygen.
    "There are many geochemical proxy models that look at atmospheric oxygen, but there's quite a large discrepancy between many of them. So our charcoal data helps proof these models, and with enough data points, we can then get a better feel for how atmospheric oxygen was trending during this time interval."
    Ian Glasspool reports the fire evidence with colleague Robert Gastaldo in the journal Geology.
    Both scientists are affiliated to Colby College in Maine, US.
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-61929966
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    Hard to imagine the world back then.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    And if you're a good lad,Uncle Peerie will tell you more stories from when he was wee.

    Kidding aside,it is really interesting.

    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    Giant fungi, reduced oxygen content...sounds a bit like a session of congress...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales



    Credit

    RICHARD JONES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

    Caption

    Conceptual illustration depicting a Silurian landscape as the first plants appeared on land. During the Silurian Period, from 443 million to 416 million years ago, vascular plants began to colonize the land. These primitive plants include Bryophytes such as moss, hornworts and liverworts. Cooksonia, the first known plant to have an upright stalk, and vascular tissue. Baragwanathia, a genus of extinct lycopsid plant and the giant fungi Prototaxites.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    The 12 year old in me really likes the phrase 'humongous, erect, very phallic pillars'

    it's fascinating - what incentivized the fungus to rise so tall, why don't they do that today?
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales

    I'm guessing the height aided the spread of wind-borne spores, and was possible because there was little around to eat them. Fungus today are (generally) subterranean lifeforms, living in the soil matrix of tree and plant roots, only sprouting mushrooms and toadstools in order to spore.

    Andy
    "In case of fire ring Fellside 75..."

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