Re: Gastaldo

Keith B Miller (
Fri, 21 May 1999 15:27:17 -0500

Bill wrote:

>Keith recently said that he had read and agrees with Gastaldo, yet when I
>pointed out an obvious contradiction between what Keith and Gastaldo had
>said, Keith went into full retreat
>(, where I quoted
>"Modern trees on saturated substrates do not send down penetrating roots.
> There is no need to send down roots for water, and the roots need to
>have access to oxygen to respire. Their roots are thus very shallow. It
>is likely that the soil features and rooting observed in paleosols
>underlying the coals is unrelated to the conditions (climatically, and
>ecologically) that existed during peat formation. [snip] Furthermore the
>underclays you and Gastaldo describe are not "intensely" rooted anyway."
>[IOW, the roots were never there in the first place.]
>and I replied:
>4) You previously stated that you agree with Gastaldo. In his 1984
>paper, page 108, Gastaldo states: "That the stigmarian axial systems
>embedded within the underclays (paleosols) of coals represent stands of
>lycopods in non-peat and peat accumulating environments is
>unquestionable." In light of your statement ..., do you agree with
>this statement of Gastaldo? If so, how do you reconcile the two?
>And Keith replied (
>"I cannot comment further on anything regarding stumps and large root
>systems within coals. I have seen trunks and stumps perhaps only twice in
>the field as part of fieldtrips. I did not have the time to examine them
>closely. The basis of the recognition of the in situ origin of the great
>majority of coals is simply not based on the presence or absence of
>and large rooting structures."

Bill, I don't appreciate having my comments characterized in this fashion.
There is NO contradiction between my comments and Gastaldo's. It is my
impression that you simply do not understand what I am saying. I have tried
to be a clear as possible. I have also tried to provide references to my
comments so that you can read the primary literature for yourself and not
rely on my, or other's, characterizations. I have also tried to not make
comments beyond my presonal expertise and beyond my current knowledge of
the literature. Listserves, such as this, are a terrible way of doing
research and of understand complex problems.

>Large rooting structures and their cross-cutting relationship with
>adjacent strata are _precisely_ what Gastaldo used to make his case for
>the in situ origin of coal.
>So, is Keith the best defense you can muster, Steve? Keith admits: "I
>have seen trunks and stumps perhaps only twice in the field as part of
>fieldtrips. I did not have the time to examine them closely." Keith says
>that "Furthermore the underclays you and Gastaldo describe are not
>"intensely" rooted anyway", while Gastaldo says: "That the stigmarian
>axial systems embedded within the underclays (paleosols) of coals
>represent stands of lycopods in non-peat and peat accumulating
>environments is _unquestionable_." Keith knows a lot about paleosols,
>but, by is own admission, very little about coal and underclays. Keith
>says the presence or absence of stumps and large rooting structures is
>irrelevant, while Gastaldo says the presence of stigmarian axial systems
>unquestionablely proves that coals formed from in situ trees. Keith's
>statements are diametrically opposed to Gastaldo's, yet Keith never said
>or admitted that he and Gastaldo are at odds, he just retreated.

My comments are NOT in contradiction to Gastaldo. I never stated that
roots are not present, or that Gastaldo's interpretation of them as in situ
is incorrect. I simply stated that "intensely rooted" paleosols are not to
be expected within saturated soils. I further stated that preserved roots
are not commonly preserved in paleosols of any age (including Holocene) and
that the identification of paleosols types is based on criteria other than
roots. If you would read the soil literature you would know that
mineralogical, chemical and microstructural criteria are the critical
features for classifying paleosols.

Bill, as I have repeatedly stated, you must step back and take a more
comprehensive look at the coals bearing units you are discussing.
Environmental interpreations are made based on a wide range of independent
observation on stratigraphy, sedimentology, paleontology (palynology),
paleoclimatology, paleopedology, isotopic geochemistry, mineralogy. etc.
Existing interpretations thus will not be overturned unless a new model can
adequately account for all this data. You must consider this evidence!


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506