Climate clues in sunken forest

January 22, 1999

An 8,000-year-old submerged forest on the north coast of the Isle of Wight is helping scientists predict the effects of climate change.

At the foot of Bouldnor Cliff, also underwater, are root systems and tree stumps dating from 6,500 BC, which are set in a seabed of peat. Researchers from Southampton University's Oceanography Centre and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology have dated the peat deposits.

"The site may represent 8,000 years of coastal erosion," said Garry Momber of the Oceanography Centre. "It can give us an idea of the rate at which sea level has changed as well as the impact it has had on the shoreline, and how it might react in the future."

The three-year project will build a picture of coastal change over the period using archaeological and geotechnical techniques.It is hoped that the results will be applied to future environment management plans.

Bouldnor Cliff was probably surrounded by an extensive forest 7,000 years ago, said David Tomlin, county archaeologist on the Isle of Wight. "By feeling our way back towards the past we can work out when severance occurred. With global warming and coastal change, what has happened in the past is highly pertinent to what we witness on the shore today."

Global warming, p22

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