Petrified wood is classified as a fossil type – a natural Phenomenon which occurs when a dead tree deeply buried underground is replaced by silica dissolved in ground water.
The solutions of silica are then precipitated and left in each molecule making the entire tree gradually turn into stone (petrifield), without changing its natural structure and form of the wood.
The silica replacing the wood may take the forms of opal and chalcedony, both of which help make the petrifield wood colorful and beautiful. Through the process of Petri faction, the structure of the cells of the wood is preserved in excellent condition with is annual rings, bark, roots and branches.
The largest petrified wood in Asia was discovered in Bantak Petrified Forest Park, measures 2 metre in diameter and 72.22 metre long. It is also the longest worldwide. Tens of petrified wood were found during geological explorations. Bantak Petrified Forest Park is located in Tak Province, Western/Northern Thailand. Facebook page can be found at: facebook.com/savingfossiltreesthailand and website at: savingfossiltreesthailand.weebly.com
- Tell us about Bantak Petrified Forest Park, the location and more
A large petrified log, partially exposed for about 1 meter, was found by a villager in a reserve forest at Ban Tak District, Tak Province, in October 2003. The discovery of the petrified wood was reported to the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, under the administration of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The officer from the department subsequently came to examine the petrified log and survey the surrounding area.
The petrified log was further excavated and was found to be about 4 m and 1.8 m wide at the base and the middle, respectively. The trunk was exposed to a length of 21 m without reaching the upper end. Many additional pieces of petrified wood were found scattered in the surrounding area covering 35 km2 or more. Some pieces were found on the soil surface and some only partly exposed.
- How many fossil trees, did you discovered already in the area ?
There are at least 16 giant trees with estimate diameter more than 1 meters wide and more than 4 meter in length, the longest one is 69 m in length as you have seen. Seven of them were excavated (from about 22 up to 69 m long) but the rest are not yet excavated but exposed either nearby area in the forest or we found during the water reservoir extension.
For other smaller size and fragments as 1 m in length or smaller there are many hundreds or thousands of them in the park, but we are facing some problems that people illegally take the petrified tree out for sold or souvenirs and we are trying to conserve them in the forest park so the next generation can still able to see them in the future.
- Why is it important to protect these fossil trees ?
These fossil trees are very important in terms of scientific value. They help us understand the diversity of ancient trees, paleobiogeography of plants, the climate and environment of the past, including geological changes through time.
- What Bantak Petrified Forest Park need, to be part of world heritage or a UNESCO Geopark ?
Because it would help conservation more sustainable as UNESCO Geopark is “the bottom up approach” process start from the local people who live in the same area of these natural resources. It helps people in community to appreciate and utilize their resources sustainable way. The Geopark has local level (provincial), national level, and international level, which if we can be part of UNESCO Global Geopark. It would also help the local economic, bring more tourist and public awareness in geoconservation. We can use these fossil trees as a conservation flagship for the entire area, in an attempt to generate interest and concern for the preservation of the forest park.
Then the whole community will also receive the benefit together by selling local hand made products/souvenirs (as Bantak is famous for various thing as granite motar and pestal, the hats that made of palm leaves, basket that made of palm stems, etc.) that we can help support women and children. We can train local tour guides, create more job opportunities and income to local people. If we look at the graph of visitor back to ten years ago, there are about 150,000 visitors/year but now decrease to 40,000-50,000 per year. When they comes, they just come around look quickly and go.
If we want to submit to be a UNESCO geopark, we can receive more support from Thai government and other local organization for set up exhibitions around the tree for knowledge transfer around the tree, better protection and conservation or in summary in addition to what I mentioned above:
People will be made aware of the importance and scientific value of fossil plant. Promotion of geo-ecotourism and increased employment opportunities for local people. Increased interest in paleobotany, conservation, ecology, and environment.
For more information about UNESCO Geopark, please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/earth-sciences/unesco-global-geoparks/
In Lesvos Island of Greece, one the earliest place that has been success to become geopark, also successful in develop from the island that has only 5,000 visitors per year just pass by transfer their flight now they have 200,000 people or more and these tourist are come not just for flight transfer but learned about Lesvos history, culture, people and the natural resources and all of these start from the petrified forest park as the dominance and distinguish natural resource they have. One of the found is Prof. Nickolas Zouros, director and found of the Natural History Museum of Lesvos Petrified Forest and also university professor there.
We try to apply their strategy and use the Lesvos as role model (http://www.globalgeopark.org/aboutggn/list/greece/6436.htm) to raise public awareness in Tak province as we also have many petrified tree trunks. However, I have been trying for almost ten years but still in progress because bureaucratic and political problems so we are still not able to go to national level yet.
We once success in provincial level of geopark and Prof. Zouros and other evaluator from UNESCO came to give us suggestion in 2015, but we need better conservation, shelters, exhibition panels. However, since it is until 3 different government Department of National Park, Wildlife, and Plants; Dept. of Mineral Resources; Royal Forest Dept. so many permission process are required when we want to do something up there. I do not how far we can go, but we have been trying our best.