New Studies Suggest a Rainforest Once Grew Near the South Pole

Today, at the bottom of the world, there is a landmass covered in ice and snow — and it’s home only to penguins, fur seals, and rich oceanic wildlife. However, it appears that this wasn’t always the case. New evidence recovered by a group of researchers proves that there was a thriving rainforest near Antarctica during the mid-Cretaceous period.

How the Evidence of an Ancient Rainforest Was Found

A team of researchers took seafloor sediment samples off the coast of West Antarctica. Within it, they discovered traces of pollen, fossilized roots, and chemical evidence of diverse plant life. Its location is less than 600 miles from the South Pole. The buried traces of vegetation allow scientists to reconstruct what the climate might have been like so many years ago. The findings were revealed by the team on the second of April in Nature. The researchers explain that the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were far greater then than they are now, which is the main reason why the existence of such a forest was possible in a place that doesn’t get a lot of exposure to direct sunlight.

An imaginative rainforest scenery
New Studies Suggest a Rainforest Once Grew Near the South Pole

What This Discovery Means

The discovery of the remnants of this ancient rainforest gives us a glimpse of what the conditions on Earth were like in the mid-Cretaceous period — between 83 and 92 million years ago. The annual temperatures, on average, would have been between 55°F and up to 77°F in the summer, which is quite a difference compared to the frigid temperatures of Antarctica today. Johann Klages, a marine geologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, was part of the research team that made this discovery. He explains that, even in the mid-Cretaceous period, this part of the world saw almost no sunlight for almost four months a year. This shows the power of carbon dioxide that allowed this forest to grow and thrive.

The South Pole covered in blocks of ice
New Studies Suggest a Rainforest Once Grew Near the South Pole

The South Pole was largely ice-free at that time, and there was no sheet of ice to reflect the sunlight and keep the land cool. This shows us the importance of the polar ice caps when it comes to the preservation of our current world climate.