Ancient Cypress Forest Reveals Clues on Ice Age

‘The Underwater Forest’ documentary chronicles the scientists’ journey into the past


Excavating ancient cypress trees

LSU scientists excavate an ancient cypress forest to discover new information about how Earth's ecosystems responded to dramatic climate and sea level changes in the past.

Photo Credit: Ben Raines, "The Underwater Forest"

BATON ROUGE – A new documentary, “The Underwater Forest,” details the discovery and exploration of an ancient cypress forest found 60 feet underwater in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama.

“Everything is in place in that ecosystem. It’s just been buried and preserved through time,” said LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Associate Professor Kristine DeLong, who is one of the featured research scientists in the film by Ben Raines.

In the film, DeLong SCUBA dives the underwater forest, helps excavate it and analyzes samples of the wood and ancient pollen to find out how old the forest is. The forest dates back to an ice age about 60,000 years ago, when sea levels were about 400 feet lower than today. DeLong describes it as a colder, windier time approaching full glacial conditions.

“One thing paleoclimatologists want to understand about this period is, what was happening to different ecosystems? How was a bald cypress swamp responding to these changes in sea level, and it getting colder?” she said. “So far, it looks like all of the trees died at about the same time.”

LSU marine geologists and students deployed sonar to map the forest and a coastal profiler to collect sediment cores in search of more clues.

Cypress forest

"The Underwater Forest" featuring LSU scientists will air on Alabama Public Television on July 23. Photo Credit: Ben Raines, "The Underwater Forest"

What they found can be seen in the documentary produced by This is Alabama and the Alabama Coastal Foundation posted on June 25 on and

The film will air on Alabama Public Television on July 23 at 6 p.m. (EST) and July 24 at 9 p.m. (EST).











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Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations