The Web of Life (16) Biosphere


Biosphere: the place on Earth’s surface where life dwells. ~ English geologist Eduard Suess

Eduard Suess’s original 1875 definition of biosphere has expanded. The biosphere is now considered the global summation of the Earth’s ecosystems.

Evolution is a tightly coupled dance, with life and the material environment as partners. From the dance emerges the entity Gaia. ~ James Lovelock

From the early 1970s, English naturalist James Lovelock called Earth’s ecosystems the “organs of Gaia.” Lovelock’s conception was that Earth is analogous to a self-regulating organism, which he termed Gaia after the ancient Greek goddess of Earth. From a historical perspective, Lovelock merely revived the idea of James Hutton, who argued in 1875 that Earth was a superorganism.

Earth is not just a machine, but also an organised body, as it has a regenerative power. ~ Scottish geologist James Hutton

Despite withering scientific scorn, the Gaia theory resonated in the public consciousness. Lovelock may have rhapsodized too poetically for scientific minds, but to anyone attuned to Nature the idea that Earth behaves as an entangled gyre makes perfect sense. Further, subsequent science proved the Gaia theory true.

Organisms can influence the physical formation of habitats (ecosystem engineering), fluxes of elements in biogeochemical cycles (for example, ecological stoichiometry), and the productivity of ecosystems (for example, via trophic cascades and keystone species). ~ American ecologist Bradley Cardinale et al

The history of life on Earth is closely intertwined with the physical and chemical mechanisms of our planet. It is clear that life had a profound role in creating the world, and the planet has similarly affected the trajectory of life. ~ English Earth scientist Timothy Lenton