Race to save 325 million year old fossil trees in West Glasgow

By on September 5, 2021 0


Fossil Grove in Victoria Park contains 11 tree stumps that stand on land where they once lived near the equator, roughly in the same area as Brazil, but which drifted north as the continents receded. are separated and moved.

The remains of 11 lycopod trees, which were spectacularly preserved by two floods and buried in sand which later turned to sandstone, were discovered in the 19th century during the digging of a quarry in Glasgow, with the Fossil House built To protect them.

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But changes to the building, which is owned by Glasgow City Council, left the compound damp and too wet, with saltwater drops from the roof now covering tree stumps and putting their survival at risk.

David Webster of the Fossil Grove Trust in Fossil Grove, Victoria Park, Glasgow. The tree stumps are found where they formed 325 million years ago, when the land that is now Glasgow was discovered near the equator, near Brazil. The fossils are now damaged, give the decaying building where they are. PIC: John Devlin.

David Webster, a geologist with the Fossil Grove Trust, said the building looked like a “dark and damp cave” with the fossils now endangered.

He said: “The fossils and the building are decaying given the high humidity in the building.

“The council has not spent any money on the building for several years. It was originally a well-designed ventilated building, but later developments caused the humidity to cause problems for the fossils.

“Over the past 30 years it has gotten incredibly wet. All the equipment has been damaged, the lights are not working, and the fossils are damaged by water dripping from the roof. Water creates salts which destroy fossils.

Salty deposits created by water dripping from the roof now cover the fossils, endangering them. PIC: John Devlin.

Mr Webster said the Victorians “recognized the value” of the fossils and raised a considerable amount of money to protect them with a new building, but plastic roof panels installed in the 90s resulted in poor ventilation .

Recently, Glasgow City Council allowed access to Fossil House, with a member of the parks team on hand to let visitors in. The council has not reopened the building since the lockdown began.

Meanwhile, the Fossil Grove Trust has funded critical repairs with additional money secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund to commission a feasibility study on the building and collection, with the final report due soon.

The trust can continue to lease the building, with volunteers hosting open houses in the meantime.

Fossil Grove was built in the late 19th century following the discovery of tree stumps, with the building believed to be Scotland’s first museum. Subsequent modifications to the building created a damp and damp building with conditions that now damage the fossils. PIC: John Devlin.

“This is a great example of the community trying to maintain something that they believe in,” Mr. Webster said.

He added that Fossil Grove can help people understand the impact of climate change given the information held by the rock record,

“We don’t want this to be a case of ‘come to Fossil Grove and look at 11 trees.’ We want to broaden the scope of what they can tell us,” Mr. Webster said.

Historic Environment Scotland said it had made efforts to “understand the cause of the degradation and deterioration” and identify the best conditions to “ensure the preservation of this unique asset”.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said he was “working closely” with the trust.

He added: “There are clear challenges with preserving fossils in a changing environment.

“But we hope the feasibility study and subsequent discussions with the trust will move forward.”

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