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Life's Ancient Island in the Ice
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: During the last ice age, massive glaciers covered much of our planet. However, a region of Alaska, Siberia and the Canadian Yukon remained ice-free. This region, known as Beringia, supported unique organisms and was an important haven for evolution. Now, scientists may have uncovered how Beringia supported such diversity at a time when conditions for life were harsh.

Killer Algae
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: A new theory suggests that algae may be the killer behind the world's greatest mass extinctions. Toxic algae usually exist in small concentrations, but sudden warming of water can trigger blooms that kill large numbers of organisms. The study could be important in understanding past and current climate change on Earth.

Finding Refuge on the Seafloor
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: Scientists studying plankton fossils from the sea floor have determined that plankton in Earth's oceans may have survived the mass-extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. The study provides insight into how Earth's biosphere has dealt with dramatic climate change in Earth's past.

Planets With Life Linger Longer
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: In one billion years, increasing radiation from the sun may make Earth uninhabitable. However, a new study shows that the life might help regulate temperatures by causing atmospheric changes. In fact, having a biosphere could increase the length of time that planets remain habitable.

Tossing the Snowball
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: New fossil studies indicate that the 'Snowball Earth' glaciations may not have been responsible for a massive die-off of early life on our planet. The real culprit could be bacterial blooms similar to those seen today in coastal areas and lakes that experience high run-off from fertilizers used in farming.

Life Out of the Tropics
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: The diversity of life on Earth is concentrated near the equator, with a steep falloff towards the poles. A recent study finds this is because new species tend to form in the tropics and then migrate out. This historical pattern might point to a fundamental property of life.

Early Oxygen
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: Cores retrieved from layers of deep-sea rocks show that oxygen-producing organisms may have existed on Earth much earlier than previously thought. The chemical properties of the rocks indicate that the oceans and atmosphere of Earth were rich in oxygen 3.46 billion years ago.

From the Top to the Bottom
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: Scientists studying climate change in Antarctica are showing how global warming and loss of sea ice are affecting many facets of the food chain. Interestingly, at the base of the food chain, Antarctic phytoplankton is responding in two contrasting ways.

Chewable Iron
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: The cycling of iron in Earth's oceans plays an important role in supporting ocean ecosystems – and is ultimately vital to the global biosphere. By studying extreme, ocean floor environments, researchers have revealed unexpected clues about how biologically useful iron is released into the ocean.

Cycling Nitrogen
Topic: Biosphere
Summary: New research shows that the large-scale evolution of microorganisms was completed 2.5 billion years ago. This included the ability of microorganisms to process nitrogen – an evolutionary step that has had long-lasting effects on the environment and the evolution of all life on Earth.

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