Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere: the gaia hypothesis

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ABSTRACT

During the time, 3.2 × 109 years, that life has been present on Earth, the physical and chemical conditions of most of the planetary surface have never varied from those most favourable for life. The geological record reads that liquid water was always present and that the pH was never far from neutral. During this same period, however, the Earth's radiation environment underwent large changes. As the sun moved along the course set by the main sequence of stars its output will have increased at least 30% and possibly 100%. It may also have fluctuated in brightness over periods of a few million years. At the same time hydrogen was escaping to space from the Earth and so causing progressive changes in the chemical environment. This in turn through atmospheric compositional changes could have affected the Earth's radiation balance. It may have been that these physical and chemical changes always by blind chance followed the path whose bounds are the conditions favouring the continued existence of life. This paper offers an alternative explanation that, early after life began it acquired control of the planetary environment and that this homeostasis by and for the biosphere has persisted ever since. Historic and contemporary evidence and arguments for this hypothesis will be presented.

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