A team of scientists from the Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, and the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) here are carrying out detailed investigation of the peat deposits from coastal plains of tropical wet evergreen and semi evergreen forests in adjacent hinterland in Kerala, under a project funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). Dr K.P.N. Kumaran,

CSIR Emeritus Scientist at Agharkar Research Institute, and Dr. D. Padmalal, Scientist of ESD, CESS who are leading this project hopes that peat deposits unearthed from coastal wetlands in South Kerala could emerge as a powerful tool to track climate history and geological evolution back over thousands of years. Scientific analysis of the fossil woods found in the sub surface deposits would trace their existence to the Holocene period, 6,000 to 10,000 years back in time.

This study is based on the hypothesis that the heavy South West monsoon, reported to be approximately three times more than the present rate of rainfall, could have triggered floods, causing massive destruction of the coastal forests. The trees were likely to have been buried under the continuous influx of sediments brought in by floodwaters. The rising sea level could also have contributed to the inundation. The sea possibly withdrew in phases, leaving behind lagoons and wetlands.

The scientists are analysing the growth rings and the cellular and anatomical details preserved in the fossil logs to reconstruct the environmental conditions and assess the pattern of climate change over the past few thousand years of geological history. Dr. Padmalal expects the study to throw light on the geological evolution of the coastal regions and wetland systems as well as the changes in sea level over thousands of years.

Details of this study are reported in a recent edition of The Hindu