Earliest evidence of wildfire found in Wales
In South Wales, the earliest signs of wildfire have been found. It appears to be some charred relics that are old and stuck in extremely old mudstone.
430 million years ago, during the Silurian Period of Earth’s history, is what we mean by “ancient.”
What was it that caught fire and formed the charcoal in those early days when so few pioneering plants had successfully colonised the land? It was probably a forest of enormous fungi.
According to palaeobotanist Ian Glasspool, the Silurian vegetation was substantially different from what it is now.
According to Dr Glasspool, it was these weird critters that burst into flames and left the blackened remnants.
He had Welsh mudstone drilled out of Rumney, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cardiff. The British Isles, as they are today, would have been in the Southern Hemisphere while these sediments were being deposited.
The rock reveals a maritime environment close to the shore, indicating that the little charcoal bits (2–3 mm in length) were being carried out to sea. That fact alone is informative because it shows that the Prototaxite fires on land were sufficiently numerous and massive to have left their mark.
Dr Glasspool has comparable data from Winnica, a Polish town in the Kielce region.
The observations collectively advance the earliest indication of wildfire on Earth by around 10 million years.
Additionally, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere during the Silurian is revealed by this scientific research.
O2 levels in the air are currently at 21%, but they were substantially lower earlier in Earth’s history. It took millions of years and photosynthetic marine algae to shape the earth.
Dr Glasspool stated that three things are essential for fires to spread: a supply of fuel, which, unexpectedly, we appear to have in adequate quantities in the Silurian; a source of ignition, which is most likely to be lightning strikes; and finally, there must be at least 16 per cent atmospheric oxygen.
In the journal Geology, Ian Glasspool and Robert Gastaldo report on the fire evidence.
Both scientists are connected to the US college of Colby in Maine.