We examined the DNA of five legume trees, which are found widely in African rainforests.... We identified significant genetic traces of fragmentation—physical splits between populations—at dates that suggest the forest retreated during cool, arid periods caused by ice ages.1
For reasons discussed below, this fits very neatly with the creationist model of a single Ice Age caused by the aftermath of the Genesis Flood. Creationists contend that what uniformitarian scientists call the Pleistocene Ice Age began soon after the Genesis Flood, roughly 4,500 years ago. The rapid formation of a new seafloor from molten material during the Flood greatly warmed the world’s oceans, causing large amounts of water to evaporate from post-Flood oceans for hundreds of years. This increased atmospheric moisture greatly increased snowfall rates at high latitudes and on mountaintops. Finally, massive amounts of late Flood and post-Flood volcanic activity placed aerosols in the stratosphere which reflected sunlight, resulting in cooler summers. These cooler summers prevented ice from melting, allowing thick ice sheets to build up over time. As the oceans cooled off and volcanism waned, the post-Flood Ice Age ended hundreds of years later.2
Because all the world’s forests were destroyed during the Flood, and since it takes hundreds of years (perhaps even a millennium) for a naturally-seeded forest to grow a thick canopy,3 thick forests would be rare during the post-Flood Ice Age, and this would be true everywhere, not merely in places with Ice Age continental glaciers. And this is indeed the case! Based upon Ice Age fossil pollen and other data, even uniformitarian scientists acknowledge that forests were much smaller and rarer during the Ice Age. An obvious possible exception is Antarctica, since the thick ice sheets make careful analysis of Antarctic fossil pollen almost impossible. Evidence for this absence of Ice Age forests seems strongest in North America, Europe, and northern Asia, although the research discussed here adds to evidence that Ice Age trees were rare in Africa, too. Most uniformitarians also agree that Ice Age trees were rare in South American and Australia, although some have raised objections to this.4 I have discussed this evidence in both a technical paper, a popular-level article in Acts & Facts, and my new book.5-7
One would expect tree populations to grow up in different locations after the Flood, depending upon where seeds happened to germinate. So it is hardly surprising that both the fossil and DNA evidence would confirm both the rarity of and the “fragmentation” of African rainforests that emerged from separate post-Flood tree populations. Secular scientists attribute the dearth and fragmentation of Ice Age forests to cold, dry conditions during the Ice Age, but this seems to be primarily because they (1) already expect ice ages to be cold and dry and (2) because they don’t know how else to explain it.
Moreover, this explanation has problems. There is strong evidence that areas that are very dry today, such as the Sahara desert and the southwestern United States, received abundant rainfall during the Ice Age. Likewise, uniformitarian scientists are starting to recognize that even in generally drier climates, some areas can still be rather wet, depending upon which criteria are used to measure aridity.8 Hence a drier climate is not an adequate explanation for this dearth of thick Ice Age forests. Secular scientists seem to sense the weakness of this argument, because some have suggested, apparently in desperation, that careless early humans caused forest fires that burned down European Ice Age forests!9 But what about the absence of thick forests on other continents? Were these also burned down by careless humans?
Once again, we see that biblical creation, with its short timescale and global Flood, rather than being an embarrassment or problem for which Christians need to sheepishly apologize, is the key to making sense of Earth history!
1. DNA reveals how ice ages affected African rainforests. Phys.org. Posted on phys.org October 13, 2021, accessed October 18, 2021.
2. Hebert, J. 2018. The Bible Best Explains the Ice Age. Acts & Facts 47 (11).
3. Eng, K. F. How to Grow a Forest Really, Really Fast. TED Fellows. Posted on fellowsblog.ted.com February 18, 2015, accessed October 18, 2021.
4. Most uniformitarian scientists think Ice Age forests were rare in South America, although some uniformitarian scientist disagree. Uniformitarian scientists also generally agree that Ice age forests were rare in Australia, although creation researcher Michael Oard has expressed concerns that Australian strata may have been seriously misidentified. See reference 6 for more details.
5. Hebert, J. 2019. “Missing” Ice Age Forests: Evidence for the Flood? Creation Research Society Quarterly. 56 (1): 48-51.
6. Hebert, J. 2020. Missing Ice Age Forests Fit Flood/Ice Age Model. Acts & Facts. 49 (6).
7. Hebert, J. 2021. The Ice Age and Climate Change: A Creation Perspective. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
8. Scheff, J., et al. 2017. Are Glacials Dry? Consequences for Paleoclimatology and for Greenhouse Warming. Journal of Climate. 30 (17): 6593-6609.
9. Kaplan, J. O. et al. 2016. Large Scale Anthropogenic Reduction of Forest Cover in Last Glacial Maximum Europe. PLOS One.
* Dr. Hebert is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.