Biosphere

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    The oceans are a vital resource for human society - and for the biosphere of Earth as a whole. However, climate change is have some dramatic effects on our oceans and seas. Increases in events like algal blooms are now being tied to global warming.
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    Geologists have found new evidence to support the 'snowball Earth' thoery, where sea ice extended all the way to the equator. Such an icy environment may have had a profound effect on the evolution of life on our planet.
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    Researchers are learning about one of the biggest species extinctions on Earth by studying an environmental disaster that occurred in Spain 11 years ago. The study could provide practical information about how the biosphere responds to abrupt ecological changes.
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    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
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    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
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    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.
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  • Planets With Life Linger Longer
    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.
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    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
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  • Life Out of the Tropics
    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
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  • Early Oxygen
    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.
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  • From the Top to the Bottom
    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.
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  • Chewable Iron
    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.
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  • Cycling Nitrogen
    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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  • Follow the Elements
    Life needs more than liquid water to survive. Organisms also need important chemical elements. Researchers are now studying the distribution of these elements on Earth to determine how they affect the distribution and evolution of life.
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  • Latitudes and Attitudes of Microbes
    New studies show that temperature, not productivity, drives bacterial diversity. The finding is changing our understanding about the conditions that affect how organisms inhabit specific environments.
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