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{{other uses}}{{short description|The global sum of all ecosystems on Earth}}File:Seawifs global biosphere.jpg|thumb|360px|A false-color composite of global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September 2001 to August 2017. Provided by the SeaWiFS The biosphere (from Greek βίος bíos "life" and σφαῖρα sphaira "sphere") also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος oîkos "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all ecosystems. It can also be termed the zone of life on Earth, a closed system (apart from solar and cosmic radiation and heat from the interior of the Earth), and largely self-regulating.ENCYCLOPEDIA
, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
, Columbia University Press
, 2004
, 2010-11-12
, By the most general biophysiological definition, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The biosphere is postulated to have evolved, beginning with a process of biopoiesis (life created naturally from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds) or biogenesis (life created from living matter), at least some 3.5 billion years ago.BOOK, Campbell, Neil A., Brad Williamson, Robin J. Heyden, Biology: Exploring Life, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, Boston, Massachusetts,weblink 978-0-13-250882-7, NEWS, Zimmer, Carl, Carl Zimmer, Earth's Oxygen: A Mystery Easy to Take for Granted,weblink 3 October 2013, The New York Times, 3 October 2013, In a general sense, biospheres are any closed, self-regulating systems containing ecosystems. This includes artificial biospheres such as Biosphere 2 and BIOS-3, and potentially ones on other planets or moons.WEB
, Meaning of biosphere
, 2010-11-12
,weblink" title="">weblink
, 2011-10-02
, dead

Origin and use of the term

missing image!
- 90 mile beach.jpg -
A beach scene on Earth, simultaneously showing the lithosphere (ground), hydrosphere (ocean) and atmosphere (air)
The term "biosphere" was coined by geologist Eduard Suess in 1875, which he defined as the place on Earth's surface where life dwells.Suess, E. (1875) Die Entstehung Der Alpen [The Origin of the Alps]. Vienna: W. Braunmuller.While the concept has a geological origin, it is an indication of the effect of both Charles Darwin and Matthew F. Maury on the Earth sciences. The biosphere's ecological context comes from the 1920s (see Vladimir I. Vernadsky), preceding the 1935 introduction of the term "ecosystem" by Sir Arthur Tansley (see ecology history). Vernadsky defined ecology as the science of the biosphere. It is an interdisciplinary concept for integrating astronomy, geophysics, meteorology, biogeography, evolution, geology, geochemistry, hydrology and, generally speaking, all life and Earth sciences.

Narrow definition

Geochemists define the biosphere as being the total sum of living organisms (the "biomass" or "biota" as referred to by biologists and ecologists). In this sense, the biosphere is but one of four separate components of the geochemical model, the other three being geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. When these four component spheres are combined into one system, it is known as the Ecosphere. This term was coined during the 1960s and encompasses both biological and physical components of the planet.BOOK, Möller, Detlev, December 2010, Chemistry of the Climate System, De Gruyter, 118–119, 978-3-11-022835-9, The Second International Conference on Closed Life Systems defined biospherics as the science and technology of analogs and models of Earth's biosphere; i.e., artificial Earth-like biospheres.BOOK, Bebarta, Kailash Chandra, 2011, Dictionary of Forestry and Wildlife Science, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 45, 978-81-8069-719-7, Others may include the creation of artificial non-Earth biospheres—for example, human-centered biospheres or a native Martian biosphere—as part of the topic of biospherics.{{citation needed|date=December 2013}}

Earth's biosphere


(File:Stromatolithe Paléoarchéen - MNHT.PAL.2009.10.1.jpg|thumb|200px|right|Stromatolite fossil estimated at 3.2–3.6 billion years old)The earliest evidence for life on Earth includes biogenic graphite found in 3.7 billion-year-old metasedimentary rocks from Western GreenlandJOURNAL, Yoko Ohtomo, Takeshi Kakegawa, Akizumi Ishida, Toshiro Nagase, Minik T. Rosing, Evidence for biogenic graphite in early Archaean Isua metasedimentary rocks, Nature Geoscience, 10.1038/ngeo2025, 8 December 2013, 7, 1, 25–28, 2014NatGe...7...25O, and microbial mat fossils found in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone from Western Australia.NEWS, Borenstein, Seth, Oldest fossil found: Meet your microbial mom,weblink 13 November 2013, AP News, 15 November 2013, JOURNAL, Noffke, Nora, Christian, Daniel, Wacey, David, Hazen, Robert M., Microbially Induced Sedimentary Structures Recording an Ancient Ecosystem in the ca. 3.48 Billion-Year-Old Dresser Formation, Pilbara, Western Australia, 8 November 2013, Astrobiology (journal), Astrobiology, 10.1089/ast.2013.1030, 24205812, 3870916, 13, 12, 1103–24, 2013AsBio..13.1103N, More recently, in 2015, "remains of biotic life" were found in 4.1 billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia.NEWS, Borenstein, Seth, Hints of life on what was thought to be desolate early Earth,weblink 19 October 2015, Excite, Yonkers, NY, Mindspark Interactive Network, Associated Press, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 1 October 2018, 8 October 2018, JOURNAL, Bell, Elizabeth A., Boehnike, Patrick, Harrison, T. Mark, Mao, Wendy L., 3, 19 October 2015, Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon,weblink Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 10.1073/pnas.1517557112, 1091-6490, 2015-10-20, 26483481, 4664351, 112, 47, 14518–21, 2015PNAS..11214518B, Early edition, published online before print. In 2017, putative fossilized microorganisms (or microfossils) were announced to have been discovered in hydrothermal vent precipitates in the Nuvvuagittuq Belt of Quebec, Canada that were as old as 4.28 billion years, the oldest record of life on earth, suggesting "an almost instantaneous emergence of life" after ocean formation 4.4 billion years ago, and not long after the formation of the Earth 4.54 billion years ago.JOURNAL, Dodd, Matthew S., Papineau, Dominic, Grenne, Tor, Slack, John F., Rittner, Martin, Pirajno, Franco, O'Neil, Jonathan, Little, Crispin T. S., Evidence for early life in Earth's oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates, Nature, 343, 7643, 60–64, 2 March 2017, 10.1038/nature21377, 28252057, 2017Natur.543...60D,weblink NEWS, Zimmer, Carl, Carl Zimmer, Scientists Say Canadian Bacteria Fossils May Be Earth's Oldest,weblink 1 March 2017, The New York Times, 2 March 2017, WEB, Ghosh, Pallab, Earliest evidence of life on Earth 'found,weblink BBC News, 1 March 2017, 2 March 2017, NEWS, Dunham, Will, Canadian bacteria-like fossils called oldest evidence of life,weblink 1 March 2017, Reuters, 1 March 2017, According to biologist Stephen Blair Hedges, "If life arose relatively quickly on Earth ... then it could be common in the universe."


(File:Ruppelsvulture.jpg|thumb|upright|Rüppell's vulture)File:XenophyophoreNOAA.jpg|thumb|Xenophyophore, a barophilic organism, from the Galapagos Rift.]]Every part of the planet, from the polar ice caps to the equator, features life of some kind. Recent advances in microbiology have demonstrated that microbes live deep beneath the Earth's terrestrial surface, and that the total mass of microbial life in so-called "uninhabitable zones" may, in biomass, exceed all animal and plant life on the surface. The actual thickness of the biosphere on earth is difficult to measure. Birds typically fly at altitudes as high as {{convert|1,800|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} and fish live as much as {{convert|8,372|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} underwater in the Puerto Rico Trench.There are more extreme examples for life on the planet: Rüppell's vulture has been found at altitudes of {{convert|11,300|m|ft mi|abbr=on}}; bar-headed geese migrate at altitudes of at least {{convert|8,300|m|ft mi|abbr=on}}; yaks live at elevations as high as {{convert|5,400|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} above sea level; mountain goats live up to {{convert|3,050|m|ft mi|abbr=on}}. Herbivorous animals at these elevations depend on lichens, grasses, and herbs.Life forms live in every part of the Earth's biosphere, including soil, hot springs, inside rocks at least {{convert|12|mi|km|order=flip|abbr=on}} deep underground, the deepest parts of the ocean, and at least {{convert|40|mi|km|order=flip|abbr=on}} high in the atmosphere.WEB, University of Georgia, First-Ever Scientific Estimate Of Total Bacteria On Earth Shows Far Greater Numbers Than Ever Known Before,weblink 25 August 1998, Science Daily, 10 November 2014, WEB, Hadhazy, Adam, Life Might Thrive a Dozen Miles Beneath Earth's Surface,weblink 12 January 2015, Astrobiology Magazine, 11 March 2017, WEB, Fox-Skelly, Jasmin, The Strange Beasts That Live In Solid Rock Deep Underground,weblink 24 November 2015, BBC online, 11 March 2017, Microorganisms, under certain test conditions, have been observed to survive the vacuum of outer space.JOURNAL, ERA-experiment "space biochemistry", Advances in Space Research, K. Dose, A. Bieger-Dose, R. Dillmann, M. Gill, O. Kerz, A. Klein, H. Meinert, T. Nawroth, S. Risi, C. Stride, 16, 8, 1995, 119–129, 10.1016/0273-1177(95)00280-R, Zhang, 11542696, 1995AdSpR..16..119D, JOURNAL, Biological responses to space: results of the experiment "Exobiological Unit" of ERA on EURECA I, Adv. Space Res., 1995, Horneck G, Vaisberg, Eschweiler U, Reitz G, Wehner J, Willimek R, Strauch K., 16, 8, 105–18, 11542695, 1995AdSpR..16..105V, 10.1016/0273-1177(95)00279-N, The total amount of soil and subsurface bacterial carbon is estimated as 5 × 1017 g, or the "weight of the United Kingdom". The mass of prokaryote microorganisms—which includes bacteria and archaea, but not the nucleated eukaryote microorganisms—may be as much as 0.8 trillion tons of carbon (of the total biosphere mass, estimated at between 1 and 4 trillion tons).WEB, Staff, The Biosphere,weblink 2014, The Given Institute, Aspen Global Change Institute, 10 November 2014, Barophilic marine microbes have been found at more than a depth of {{convert|10,000|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} in the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the Earth's oceans.JOURNAL, Takamia, etal, 1997, Microbial flora in the deepest sea mud of the Mariana Trench, FEMS Microbiology Letters, 152, 2, 279–285, 10.1111/j.1574-6968.1997.tb10440.x, 9231422, In fact, single-celled life forms have been found in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, by the Challenger Deep, at depths of {{convert|11,034|m|ft mi|abbr=on}}.National Geographic, 2005WEB, Choi, Charles Q., Microbes Thrive in Deepest Spot on Earth,weblink 17 March 2013, LiveScience, 17 March 2013, JOURNAL, Glud, Ronnie, Wenzhöfer, Frank, Middelboe, Mathias, Oguri, Kazumasa, Turnewitsch, Robert, Canfield, Donald E., Kitazato, Hiroshi, High rates of microbial carbon turnover in sediments in the deepest oceanic trench on Earth, 10.1038/ngeo1773, 17 March 2013, Nature Geoscience, 6, 4, 284–288, 2013NatGe...6..284G, Other researchers reported related studies that microorganisms thrive inside rocks up to {{convert|580|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} below the sea floor under {{convert|2590|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} of ocean off the coast of the northwestern United States,WEB, Oskin, Becky, Intraterrestrials: Life Thrives in Ocean Floor,weblink 14 March 2013, LiveScience, 17 March 2013, as well as {{convert|2400|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} beneath the seabed off Japan.NEWS, Morelle, Rebecca, Microbes discovered by deepest marine drill analysed,weblink 15 December 2014, BBC News, 15 December 2014, Culturable thermophilic microbes have been extracted from cores drilled more than {{convert|5,000|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} into the Earth's crust in Sweden,JOURNAL, Szewzyk, U, Szewzyk, R, Stenstrom, TR., 1994, Thermophilic, anaerobic bacteria isolated from a deep borehole in granite in Sweden, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 91, 5, 1810–1813, 10.1073/pnas.91.5.1810, 11607462, 43253, 1994PNAS...91.1810S, from rocks between {{convert|65-75|°C|°F|abbr=on}}. Temperature increases with increasing depth into the Earth's crust. The rate at which the temperature increases depends on many factors, including type of crust (continental vs. oceanic), rock type, geographic location, etc. The greatest known temperature at which microbial life can exist is {{convert|122|°C|°F|abbr=on}} (Methanopyrus kandleri Strain 116), and it is likely that the limit of life in the "deep biosphere" is defined by temperature rather than absolute depth.{{citation needed|date=January 2016}} On 20 August 2014, scientists confirmed the existence of microorganisms living {{convert|800|m|ft mi|abbr=on}} below the ice of Antarctica.JOURNAL, Fox, Douglas, Lakes under the ice: Antarctica's secret garden, 20 August 2014, Nature (journal), Nature, 512, 7514, 244–246, 10.1038/512244a, 2014Natur.512..244F, 25143097, WEB, Mack, Eric, Life Confirmed Under Antarctic Ice; Is Space Next?,weblink 20 August 2014, Forbes, 21 August 2014, According to one researcher, "You can find microbes everywhere - they're extremely adaptable to conditions, and survive wherever they are."Our biosphere is divided into a number of biomes, inhabited by fairly similar flora and fauna. On land, biomes are separated primarily by latitude. Terrestrial biomes lying within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles are relatively barren of plant and animal life, while most of the more populous biomes lie near the equator.

Annual variation

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Artificial biospheres

(File:Biosphere 2 4888964549.jpg|thumb|Biosphere 2 4888964549|Biosphere 2 in Arizona.)Experimental biospheres, also called closed ecological systems, have been created to study ecosystems and the potential for supporting life outside the earth. These include spacecraft and the following terrestrial laboratories:
  • Biosphere 2 in Arizona, United States, 3.15 acres (13,000 m2).
  • BIOS-1, BIOS-2 and BIOS-3 at the Institute of Biophysics in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in what was then the Soviet Union.JOURNAL, BioScience, Oct 1997, 47, 9, 575–85, Bios-3: Siberian experiments in bioregenerative life support, Salisbury FB, Gitelson JI, Lisovsky GM, 10.2307/1313164, 11540303, 1313164,
  • Biosphere J (CEEF, Closed Ecology Experiment Facilities), an experiment in Japan.JOURNAL, Nakano, 1998, Dynamic Simulation of Pressure Control System for the Closed Ecology Experiment Facility,weblink Transactions of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, 64, 617, 107–114, 10.1299/kikaib.64.107, etal, WEB,weblink Institute for Environmental Sciences,, 2011-11-08,
  • Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Extraterrestrial biospheres

No biospheres have been detected beyond the Earth; therefore, the existence of extraterrestrial biospheres remains hypothetical. The rare Earth hypothesis suggests they should be very rare, save ones composed of microbial life only.BOOK, Ward, Peter D., Brownlee, Donald, Rare earth: why complex life is uncommon in the universe, 2004, Copernicus, New York, 978-0-387-95289-5, 2nd rev., Rare Earth (book), On the other hand, Earth analogs may be quite numerous, at least in the Milky Way galaxy, given the large number of planets.NEWS, Choi, Charles Q., New Estimate for Alien Earths: 2 Billion in Our Galaxy Alone,weblink 25 September 2017,, 21 March 2011, Three of the planets discovered orbiting TRAPPIST-1 could possibly contain biospheres.NEWS, Rees, Sir Martin, These new worlds are just the start. There are many more life-supporting planets out there waiting to be discovered,weblink 25 September 2017, The Telegraph, 22 February 2017, Given limited understanding of abiogenesis, it is currently unknown what percentage of these planets actually develop biospheres.Based on observations by the Kepler Space Telescope team, it has been calculated that provided the probability of abiogenesis is higher than 1 to 1000, the closest alien biosphere should be within 100 light-years from the Earth.Amri Wandel, On the abundance of extraterrestrial life after the Kepler missionIt is also possible that artificial biospheres will be created during the future, for example on Mars.BOOK, Clarke, Robert Zubrin ; With Richard Wagner ; Foreword by Arthur C, The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, 2011, Simon & Schuster, 978-1451608113, Rev., Updated, The Case for Mars, The process of creating an uncontained system that mimics the function of Earth's biosphere is called terraforming.JOURNAL, Fogg, M.J., Terraforming Mars: A review of current research, Advances in Space Research, 22, 3, 1998, 415–420, 0273-1177, 10.1016/S0273-1177(98)00166-5, 1998AdSpR..22..415F,

See also

{{div col|colwidth=18em}} {{div col end}}



Further reading

External links

  • Biosphere Definition
  • weblink" title="">Article on the Biosphere at Encyclopedia of Earth
  •, an ongoing programme to map the past, current and future impacts of human activities on the biosphere
  • Paul Crutzen Interview, freeview video of Paul Crutzen Nobel Laureate for his work on decomposition of ozone talking to Harry Kroto Nobel Laureate by the Vega Science Trust.
  • weblink" title="">Atlas of the Biosphere
{{Nature nav}}{{Environmental science}}{{Sustainability}}{{biological organisation}}{{Natural resources}}

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