Remnants of 13,000 year old forest found during Amersfoort jog

13,000 year old remains of a pine tree found in Leusden, Utrecht, March 2017
13,000 year old remains of a pine tree found in Leusden, Utrecht, March 2017Photo: Utrecht University

The remains of a 13 thousand year old pine forest was found in Leusden in the province of Utrecht, the University of Utrecht said on its website. According to researchers from Utrecht University and the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Service, the discovery is very important as the trees give an accurate picture of the effects of an abrupt and drastic change in climate.

The discovery was made on property Den Treen-Henschoten in Leusden. In addition to the pine forest, the researchers also found remains of dwarf birch, which now grows in Scandinavia. All in all the remains of 160 trees were found, documented and sampled. Most of the trees were between 50 and 80 years old at the time of the forest's demise. The trunks are very well preserved. They were blown over in a storm or two, embedded in a layer of peat and covered by sand. 

The forest stems from a relatively warm period at the end of the last ice age, according to the researchers - some 13 thousand years ago the relatively warm Allerod period abruptly turned into the very cold Younger Dryas period. It is believed that the transition was caused by a sudden burst of icy water from the North American ice cap flowing into the the Atlantic. This stopped the warm Gulf Stream and sent the Netherlands back into the Ice Age.

"This finding is a big surprise", Wim Hoek, physical geographer at the University of Utrecht said on the university's site. "Now for the first time in the Netherlands we can study the environmental effects of a rapid and sustained cooling in the climate."

"The sudden demise of the forest is a wonderful illustration of the major changes the hunters and gatherers of the time had to deal with", professor doctor Jos Bazelmans of the Cultural Heritage Service and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam said.