Get access

The geological consequences of evolution

Authors

  • Andrew H. Knoll

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
      Corresponding author: Professor Andrew H. Knoll. Tel.: 001 617 495 9306; e-mail: aknoll@oeb.harvard.edu
    Search for more papers by this author

Corresponding author: Professor Andrew H. Knoll. Tel.: 001 617 495 9306; e-mail: aknoll@oeb.harvard.edu

ABSTRACT

Geobiologists seek to understand the role of organisms in the Earth system. By extension, one can ask how evolutionary innovations and, more generally, the population genetic processes that mediate evolution have influenced the Earth's surface through time. The example of oxygenic photosynthesis and the redox history of atmospheres and oceans illustrates the complex relationship between evolution and environmental change. Biological innovations determine the dimensions of biological participation in the Earth system, but by themselves they seldom generate lasting environmental change. More commonly, environments change when physical drivers exceed the limited environmental buffering capacity conferred by population genetics and nutritional codependence. Environmental change, in turn, feeds back on biology, creating new opportunities for evolutionary innovation.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary