Re: coal again!

Bill Payne (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 08:04:40 -0600

On Thu, 15 Apr 1999 23:29:57 -0500 (Keith B Miller)

>I have already provided references! You specifically stated that you
>not read them.

Yes, I know, you keep telling me that.

>You can find my references by accessing the archives.

OK, I don't have Internet access right now, but I'll get it. Thank you
for having provided them.

>The _traces_ of fine rootlets often are better preserved because of the
>chemical alteration that occurs around the them. The actual root
>material is not easily preserved.

The actual root organic material is very easily preserved as carbon or
coal, just as tree bark is, and this process has nothing to do with
chemical alteration of encasing sediments. The rootlets I see are
randomly oriented (except in one case, where they were all vertical), and
therefore were never part of a stigmarian axial root system. If they had
been, they would be diametrically opposed, as some are which I have
observed in rubble from the excavation. Incidentally, the axial roots,
where they occur, are equally as well preserved as the rootlets. Also,
there would be a blank zone between opposing rows of rootlets where the
axial root had once been, if the rootlets only had been preserved. Based
upon my observations, I must conclude that your explanation of why we
only find carbon traces of the rootlets and no trace of the axial systems
is insufficient. The data indicate that the axial root systems never
existed beneath the coal in the first place; it's not a case of
differential preservation.

>If the stumps and trunks extend from the top of the coal seam into the
>sediments overlying the coal, then I would not expect to see any rooting
>_from those trees_ in the underclay.

I've never seen a stump sitting upright in the top of a coal seam; well,
perhaps one which was actually in a ~10-inch clayey-shale split in a coal
seam. But "the stumps and trunks" which you imagine extending "from the
top of the coal seam into the sediments overlying the coal" are virtually
nonexistent. And this is one of the points supporting an allocthtonous
origin for coal. If these supposed coal swamps were buried by rising sea
levels, we would indeed observe tree trunks penetrating into the
overlying sediments. Instead, we commonly see a razor-sharp planar
contact between coal and the overlying strata. The vertical stumps and
trunks we do see are suspended in sediment, not connected to coal, and
without roots in every case I have observed.

>The trees growing in many peat
>forming environments today have very shallow roots. The roots of trees
>the peat-forming marshes of Louisiana do not penetrate through the
>vegetation mat.

How tall are these trees, what is the maximum diameter of the trees at
the base, and how thick is the vegetation mat?

>Rooting is one of the processes that _creates_ soil microstructure!

I guess I'll have to remain in the dark for the time being as to what the
soil microstructure you are referring to is, since you refused to
enlighten me by answering my request for a description of "diagnostic
microstructural features" in my previous post.

>The laminations and bedding _are_ original sedimentary features! They
>preserved in poorly developed saturated soils. Sedimentary fabric is
>destroyed by physical and chemical processes and biological activity
>is not very active in saturated soils. Rooting alone (which is not
>"intense" in saturated soils anyway) will not quickly destroy
>fabric. There are paleosols I have studied in which root traces and
>are abundant but the macroscopic sedimentary fabric is still

I do follow what you are saying here, and, as I suspected, you are at
odds with Gastaldo. I think, maybe you can correct me if I am wrong,
that it takes perhaps 100 years of swamp growth to supply enough
vegetation to form one inch of coal. So for the first 100 years of the
swamp, there is little or no vegetation mat to hold shallow roots, they
have to root in the soil. I understand that organics compress 5 to 10
times their volume to form coal, so after 100 years the organic mat is,
say, 5 to 10 inches thick. Gastaldo says that Stigmarian axial root
systems penetrate the soil at angles exceeding 30 degrees, so we should
have at least 100 years of growth with axial root systems well into the
substrate. And after 100 years of 50- to 75-foot or taller trees rooting
into the saturated soil, and dead trees falling over and pulling up their
root balls out of the saturated soil and creating "potholes" beneath the
vegetation mat (which we also don't see), the soil would be intensely
rooted and microfine laminations would, in my opinion, be destroyed. As
I understand your argument, you say that the laminations are preserved
because the roots never penetrate the soil to any great extent. It seems
to me that your argument is inconsistent with Gastaldo and with rooting
structures of trees in modern-day swamps.

Are you saying that trees growing in swamps today have roots that do not
penetrate the saturated soil they are standing on?

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