Abstract

A recently excavated locality in the Chemnitz Petrified Forest, lower Permian in age and occurring within the Leukersdorf Formation of the Chemnitz Basin, Germany, provides evidence for an outstanding fossil assemblage buried in situ by pyroclastics. The environment is interpreted as forested lowland that sheltered a dense hygrophilous vegetation of ferns, sphenophytes, and gymnosperms, as well as a diverse fauna of reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, and gastropods. A detailed measured section of the outcrop documents the early volcanic history of the Chemnitz fossil forest, including a paleosol that shows the root systems of Psaronius tree ferns, Arthropitys calamitaleans, and Medullosa and Cordaixylon gymnosperms in the same horizon. Fifty-three trunks are still standing upright and rooted at their place of growth, providing evidence that the top of the paleosol was the land surface on which the forest grew, thereby offering insights into the original plant community structure and density. Taphonomic analysis of both the petrified and adpression-fossil assemblages enable us to reconstruct the direction, estimate the violence and extent of the volcanic events, and their effects on the entire ecosystem. A complete dataset of three-dimensional coordinates resulting from three and one-half years of continuing excavation and study permits the recognition of organ connections and results in the first reconstructions of the excavation site, the floral elements, and the plant community as a whole.

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