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Yellowstone's Specimen Creek fossil forests were evidently transported (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Yellowstone's Specimen Creek fossil forests were evidently transported (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC332:

The Specimen Creek fossil forests in Yellowstone National Park show up to fifty layers of fossil forests with upright trees. The conventional explanation is that each new forest grew atop the previous ones as the previous forests were buried in volcanic ash. This explanation fails; instead, the fossil forests result from the deposition of trees uprooted from elsewhere.


CreationWiki response:

Sarfati provides several arguments against in-place burial. Here are a few.

  • Growing trees have extensive root systems, but the large roots of these petrified trees have broken off.
  • These trees have few branches and hardly any bark.
  • As would be expected if the trees had all been laid down quickly, some trees extend into the layer of trees above them.
  • Fallen trees in forests are found lying in all directions. However, in the petrified "forests" trees that are lying down tend to be aligned in one direction. Even those trees that are upright have their long axis aligned the same direction. This is totally consistent with the transport model but inconsistent with the buried-in-place model.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

Evidence that some of the trees, especially those on Specimen Ridge, were buried in place, includes the following:

  • There are tree stumps that are rooted in fine-grained tuffaceous sandstone but buried in conglomerates.

This actually suggests that these trees were not buried in place. Forests do not grow in sand but such sand would be readily transported by water. In flowing water fine-grain and large-grain sediments will often alternate such that large-grain sediment can be found on top of fine-grain sediment. This would be most consistent with the tree being transported by and buried in flowing water.

  • Upper parts of some stumps and logs, surrounded by conglomerates, were severely abraded, but the lower parts in sandstone have good root systems.
  1. The very fact that the roots are in sandstone goes against the stumps and logs being buried in place. See above.
  2. A tree in already loose soil would retain much of its root system even when uprooted.
  3. The fact that the parts buried in conglomerates are severely abraded only shows that this damage was done by the conglomerates. Since while being transported the trees would be moving with all the other debris, it is possible for them to receive little damage until after they are partly buried.
  • Flow structures in some conglomerates show they buried in-place trees.

It is difficult to respond to this one because it too vague to tell exactly what they are referring to.

  • Thin sections show evidence of soil around the roots.

This actually supports the transport model since it is quite common for uprooted trees to retain soil around their roots. Furthermore, wet soil is likely to cling to the roots.

  • There are clear soil horizons around some root systems.

These so-called soil horizons could have been formed in situ and the conditions that would have produced them would have occurred in the event that buried the trees. Finding some root systems in them is no surprise given all the floating and sinking trees.

2. Upright stumps and trees on Specimen Ridge cannot be explained as floating stumps settling out of standing water, as proposed by Coffin (1983) based on observations of trees washed into Spirit Lake.

  • Most tree fossils in Yellowstone occur in sediments from high-energy flows, not a low-energy lake environment

Spirit Lake is not considered a perfect model of Specimen Ridge; it simply shows how trees behave when floating on water.

The percentage of erect trees in Yellowstone is more than 50 percent on Specimen Ridge, but only about ten to twenty percent of trees stay upright in flows such as in Spirit Lake.

As stated above, Spirit Lake is not considered a perfect model of Specimen Ridge. The trees on Specimen Ridge were different trees in a different environment, so it is no surprise that the percentages are different.

Talk.Origins says that ten to twenty percent of trees stay upright in flows, but at Specimen Ridge we do not see floating trees, but trees that have already sunk. It can be shown that as trees with roots float, they become water-logged root-end first and turn upright, thus increasing the number of upright trees after they sink. The key difference is the retention of roots. Those that retain roots end up buried roots down, and those without roots tend to end up on their side. So the most this shows is that the trees at Specimen Ridge had a higher root retention rate than those at Spirit Lake.

Many of the Specimen Ridge trees are rooted in soils, as noted above.

Actually they are in material interpreted as soil but could have formed in situ as noted above.