Abstract

Pennsylvanian fossil forests are known from hundreds of sites across tropical Pangea, but nearly all comprise remains of humid Coal Forests. Here we report a unique occurrence of seasonally dry vegetation, preserved in growth position along >5 km of strike, in the Pennsylvanian (early Kasimovian, Missourian) of New Mexico (United States). Analyses of stump anatomy, diameter, and spatial density, coupled with observations of vascular traces and associated megaflora, show that this was a deciduous, mixed-age, coniferopsid woodland (∼100 trees per hectare) with an open canopy. The coniferopsids colonized coastal sabkha facies and show tree rings, confirming growth under seasonally dry conditions. Such woodlands probably served as the source of coniferopsids that replaced Coal Forests farther east in central Pangea during drier climate phases. Thus, the newly discovered woodland helps unravel biome-scale vegetation dynamics and allows calibration of climate models.

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