New Research: Earth as a Living Organism

May 18th, 2012
in econ_news

Econintersect: A University of Marlyand finding may hold key to Gaia Theory of Earth as Living Organism.  The Gaia hypothesis, was GaiaSMALLproposed by NASA Chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970's.  It views Earth's ecosystem as a living organism linking the life forms and inanimate natural processes.

The complex web of ecosystem which connects the inanimate and animate have been compared to Gaia the ancient Greek Goddess.  She was the mother of all gods.  The Titans and the Giants races were born from her union with Uranus (the sky), while the sea-gods were born from her union with Pontus (the sea).

Follow up:

T
he Gaia theory proposes that the Earth is a self-regulating complex system.involving :
  • The Biosphere: All life forms and their interdependence with each other and other spheres
  • The Atmosphere: Layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity
  • The hydrospheres: Combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet.
  • The Pedosphere: The outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes
These four spheres are tightly coupled as a living, evolving and essentially a sentient system.

The Gaia, seeks a physical and chemical environment optimal balance for contemporary life.  Existence of 3.5 billions of evolutionary processes are witness that Gaia has made many organism disappear as she balances the various elements to maintain stability.

The first species to be "exterminated" were the early hydrogen sulfide eating bacteria who, through over breeding, poisoned the atmosphere with their waste: oxygen.  As hydrogen hulfide became scarce and oxygen abundant, they were replaced by blue-green bacteria who could thrived on oxygen.
Hydrogen sulfide eating bacteria are in minority today, mostly found in hydro thermal vents, oil deposits, hot springs and oceans.

Over ninety nine percent of all species that ever existed have become extinct.

A newly published work done at the University of Maryland will help prove or disprove this controversial theory.

Following is a summary from the University of Maryland website:
First author Harry Oduro, together with UMD geochemist James Farquhar and marine biologist Kathryn Van Alstyne of Western Washington University, provides a tool for tracing and measuring the movement of sulfur through ocean organisms, the atmosphere and the land in ways that may help prove or disprove the controversial Gaia theory.

One of the early predictions of this hypothesis was that there should be a sulfur compound made by organisms in the oceans that was stable enough against oxidation in water to allow its transfer to the air. Either the sulfur compound itself, or its atmospheric oxidation product, would have to return sulfur from the sea to the land surfaces. The most likely candidate for this role was deemed to be dimethylsulfide.

The ability to do this could help us answer important climate questions, and ultimately better predict climate changes

The tools may ultimately help testing a coupling in the Gaia hypothesis.

Sources:
  • Gaia hypothesis: Wiki
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria: Wiki








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