Research Finds A Rainforest Grew In The South Pole Some 90 Million Years Ago

Once upon a time, there was a lush rainforest in what is known as the icy lands of Antarctica.

Bottom Of The World

It may be hard to believe that the icy wastelands of Antarctica may have ever hosted plant life, let alone an actual thriving rainforest, but new research says that this was exactly the case around 90 million years ago.

This is because according to new research, buried sediment extracted from the seafloor off of west Antarctica (and just less than a thousand kilometers from the South Pole) revealed ancient pollen, fossilized roots and other chemical evidence of a lush and most likely diverse rainforest that was there millions of years ago.

Per the researchers, the sediment (as well as the chemical evidence that it contains) provides us with the southernmost glimpse of what Earth was really like during the mid-Cretaceous period, which was around 92 million to 83 million years ago. Researchers were reportedly able to reconstruct the climate conditions at that time by analyzing the traces of vegetation that was left in the sediment, which revealed that back then, the ancient forest had an annual average temperature of about 13 degrees Celsius, while summertime degrees reached around 20 or 25 degrees Celsius.

Based on previous analyses of finds, the mid-Cretaceous is one of the warmest periods that our planet went through in the last 140 million years, with carbon dioxide levels thought to have been as much as 1,000 parts per million. But for an ancient rainforest to exist this far south, then the greenhouse conditions must have existed longer than we previously thought.

“It shows us the extreme potency of carbon dioxide — what carbon dioxide can really do. Even without light for four months, [Antarctica] could still have a temperate climate,” Johann Klages, marine geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, said.

“This paper is a great reminder that, just because there [is] a continent sitting at the South Pole, [that] doesn’t mean it necessarily has to have ice everywhere, or even be particularly cold,” Julia Wellner, a geologist at the University of Houston, said.

Earth's South Pole A composite image of earth’s south pole combines an image of the globe fully illuminated by the Sun, and one of the globe in full darkness, showing only the city lights of inhabited areas. NASA/Marit Jentoft-Nils

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