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The Biosphere

The Organic Component of Gaia

..and from that initial proliferation stemmed the amazing profusion of organic matter whose matted complexity came to form the last but one of the envelopes of our planet: the biosphere.

Teilhard de Chardin The Phenomenon of Man, pp.86-7,



image of Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) by Susan M. Barns

The biosphere is the collective totality of life on Gaia, the living Earth.  We can define the biosphere as being the totality of living beings on Earth and also those elements of the oceans, atmosphere, and lithosphere with which living organisms interact.  It is the presence of a biosphere that distinguishes the Earth as a living planet from dead but otherwise geospherically similiar planets like Mars and Venus.  It also the metabolic result of the organisms that make up the biosphere that preserve the Earth as a system hospitable to life (e.g. free oxygen, equilible climate, large bodies of standing water).

The term "biosphere" was coined by the geologist Eduard Suess in 1875 who used it in passing when describing his work on the geological structure of the Alps.  It was developed by the Russian (Soviet) scientist external link Vladimir Vernadsky who defined it as "the envelope of life, i.e. the area of living matter...".  The concept was further taken up by the Jesuit philosopher and palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin who incorporated it into his volutionary cosmology.  The latest and most profound development of the Biosphere concept is Dr Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis.



Science

biology
evolution
genetics
ecology
systematics
kingdoms of life

Esotericism

biosophy
the development of consciousness
The Formative Field (Etheric) Body
Emotional-Senstitive Body

Biotas

Pre-Vendian
Vendian (Ediacarian)
Tommotian
Cambrian
Paleozoic
Modern
(Mesozoic-Cenozoic)

The Future of the Biosphere (and of life in the universe)

Our Earth is external link a rare and precious place indeed.

We stand at the crossroads. Humanity holds the fate of all life in his/her hands. Two options - to continue the path of ecocide as we are going now, which will be the greatest disaster in the history of the Earth, the extermination of billions of years of evolution, with all that remains being - in Azimov's immortal phrase (when describing the planet Trantor in Foundation) - man, his pets and his parasites. Or to develop a sustainable future (something governments, international bodies, and large corporations seem at present utterly incapable of, but who knows) and, opening up space as the high frontier, to seed the barren universe with life; innumerable orbital and nomadic biospheres, space habitats and terraformed new worlds.

It is this latter that is surely the destiny of the human race. So that humanity is really, not the "brain" of Gaia but the genitals of Gaia!

Which way things pan out remains to be seen.


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books Books and Web Links Web links

Biosphere - a short bibliography (from the Talk.Origins Archive)

web page The Biosphere - short but useful definition, also gives interrelatiosn with atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and anthrosphere

web pagelinks Life - huge list of links - from The Telson Spur

SENCKENBERG - Centre for Biodiversity Research - mostly German, some English.  Some nice displays

on-line book (hypertext) BIODIVERSITY and CONSERVATION - A Hypertext Book by Peter J. Bryant - covers the origin, nature and value of biological diversity,  the threats to its continued existence, and approaches to preserving what is left

Tree of Life project The Tree of Life - A distributed Internet project containing information about phylogeny and biodiversity
This is an extraordinary on-going project that has the aim of classifying every type of living organism in a single enormous family tree.  Although much of it is still incomplete it is still fun to navigate through the various branches.  This is one of the very few academically valid (peer reviewed) sites on the subject

web site A Última Arca de Noé" (The Last Noah's Ark) Brazilian site about ecology, environment, biodiversity, environmental education, animals, birding etc. Portuguese/English.


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In Association with Amazon.com

Software Cd-Rom edition Conserving Earth's Biodiversity by Dan L. Perlman, Edward Osborne Wilson

Book The Biosphere by V. I. Vernadskii, David B. Langmuir (Translator), Mark A. S. McMenamin, Vladimir Vernadsky

Book in Print The Diversity of Life by Edward Osborne Wilson

Book in Print The Biodiversity Crisis: Losing What Counts by Michael J. Novacek (Editor) (American Museum of Natural History Books)

Book Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story by Mark Andrew Ritchie

Book The Work of Nature : How the Diversity of Life Sustains Us by Yvonne Baskin, Abigail Rorer (Illustrator), Paul R. Ehrlich

Book in Print Life : A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey

Book in Print Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter Douglas Ward, Donald Brownlee


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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded on the 28 May 1998, most recent update 8 August 2002


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