The Biosphere

The biosphere is the life zone of the Earth and includes all living organisms, including man, and all organic matter that has not yet decomposed. Life evolved on Earth during its early history between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years ago and the biosphere readily distinguishes our planet from all others in the solar system.

The marine and terrestrial biospheres have a major impact on the atmosphere’s composition. The biota influences the uptake and release of greenhouse gases. Through the photosynthetic process, both marine and terrestrial plants (especially forests) store significant amounts of carbon from carbon dioxide. Thus, the biosphere plays a central role in the carbon cycle, as well as in the budgets of many other gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide. Other biospheric emissions are the so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC) which may have important effects on atmospheric chemistry, on aerosol formation, and therefore on climate. Because the storage of carbon and the exchange of trace gases are influenced by climate, feedbacks between climate change and atmospheric concentrations of trace gases can occur. The influence of climate on the biosphere is preserved as fossils, tree rings, pollen and other records, so that much of what is known of past climates comes from such biotic indicators. Often overlooked in the discussion of the biosphere is that our humans is part of it.

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