By Steven L. Stephenson
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Extra info for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
COAL SWAMP FORESTS “Coal swamp forests,” or “coal forests,” are highly important in the context of the human history of the Central Appalachians, since they are the source of the large deposits of organic material that ultimately became converted into coal. Although the landscape upon which they formed apparently had little topographic relief, there were areas of higher ground along with poorly drained areas that had standing water. In addition, there must have been slowly flowing streams, ponds, and lakes of 31 32 FIGURE 10 Diorama of a Carboniferous forest with some of its early tetrapod inhabitants FIGURE 11 (opposite) The pattern of diamondshaped leaf scars on a fossil of Lepidodendron various sizes.
He referred to the relationship of topography and environment as a “topographic moisture gradient,” and this concept has been used to help explain the overall pattern of vegetation for a number of other mountainous regions of the world. On clear, calm nights, especially during the spring and fall, the layer of air next to the ground on a ridgetop becomes colder than the air above it. Under the influence of gravity, this colder air moves (“flows”) down slope and accumulates on the floor of the adjacent valley.
About 450 million years ago, during the latter part of the Ordovician, the first true macroscopic (and multicellular) land plants appeared. It seems that they would have been similar in appearance to some of the simple liverworts that survive today. These early multicellular land plants did not have specialized water-conducting (or vascular) tissue, which severely limited both their distribution and the size they could attain. The oldest known fossils of plants with vascular tissue date back to the Silurian, about 420 million years ago.
A Natural History of the Central Appalachians by Steven L. Stephenson