Friday, August 28, 2015

Hidden Gems: Cypress Trees In Unusual Places

Bloggers Note: Cypress Trees are generally synonymous with the swamps of the South, particularly Louisiana. However, this blogger has found some unusual places where Cypress Trees and Cypress Tree remains have popped up. In light of the the 10 year anniversary, here is a positive spin on how Hurricane Katrina uncovered an amazing and unusual place to find a Cypress Tree forest.

From the article "Primeval Underwater Forest Discovered in Gulf of Mexico" from the website livescience.com



Scuba divers have discovered a primeval underwater forest off the coast of Alabama.The Bald Cypress forest was buried under ocean sediments, protected in an oxygen-free environment for more than 50,000 years, but was likely uncovered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Ben Raines, one of the first divers to explore the underwater forest and the executive director of the nonprofit Weeks Bay Foundation, which researches estuaries.The forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh Cypress sap, Raines said.

The stumps of the Cypress trees span an area of at least 0.5 square miles (1.3 square kilometers), several miles from the coast of Mobile, Ala., and sit about 60 feet (18 meters) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Raines reached out to several scientists to learn more about the forest. One of those scientists was Grant Harley, a dendrochronologist (someone who studies tree rings) at the University of Southern Mississippi. Harley was intrigued, and together with geographer Kristine DeLong of Louisiana State University, set out to discover the site's secrets.

The research team created a sonar map of the area and analyzed two samples Raines took from trees. DeLong is planning her own dive at the site later this year. Because of the forest depth, scuba divers can only stay below for about 40 minutes before coming up.

Carbon isotopes (atoms of the same element that have different molecular weights) revealed that the trees were about 52,000 years old. The trees' growth rings could reveal secrets about the climate of the Gulf of Mexico thousands of years ago, during a period known as the Wisconsin Glacial period, when sea levels were much lower than they are today. In addition, because Bald Cypress trees can live a thousand years, and there are so many of them, the trees could contain thousands of years of climate history for the region, Harley said.

"These stumps are so big, they're upwards of two meters in diameter — the size of trucks," Harley told OurAmazingPlanet. "They probably contain thousands of growth rings." The team, which has not yet published their results in a peer-reviewed journal, is currently applying for grants to explore the site more thoroughly.

Harley estimates they have just two years. "The longer this wood sits on the bottom of the ocean, the more marine organisms burrow into the wood, which can create hurdles when we are trying to get radiocarbon dates," Harley said. "It can really make the sample undatable, unusable."


Stay tuned for more Hidden Gems!