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Conifers – a link with ice-age

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Can vegetation survive thousands of years and come to life today? If researchers are to be believed the answer is yes. Scientific evidences suggest, pine tree survived the last ice age that hit northern Europe some 20,000 to 25,000 years ago. Analysis of ancient DNA provides evidences that conifer trees like pine and spruce were alive and well in Norway as early as 20,000 years ago, reports Science Now in its latest web edition. The findings suggest tree may migrate slower than thought when faced with climate warming, which could have important implications for creating models to predict current global warming.

In 2002, physical geographer Leif Kullman of Umea University in Sweden radiocarbon dated fossilized pieces of the trunks, roots and cones of spruce, pine and birch in Scandes Mountains to as early as 14,000 years ago, when Scandinavia was still covered under a thick blanket of ice. But this was challenged by some other researchers.

A team led by Eske Willerslev, ancient DNA expert at the University of Copenhagen, recovered spruce DNA from lake sediments and pollen from sediments collected from the Trondelang region 10,300 years old. Willersley and his colleagues found spruce chloroplast DNA collected from sediments from Andoya Island dated to 17,700 years ago and pine chloroplast DNA dated to about 22,000 years ago. They have concluded, the trees probably survived the ice-age.

Researchers believe, this will help in modeling the response of vegetation to global warming in the present times.

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