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View Diary: Gaia Hypothesis 101 (66 comments)

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  •  Passenger, Worker, or Captain? (1+ / 0-)
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    Tom Anderson

    Thanks for the critique.

    Gaia was first seriously debated at the American Geophysical Union in 1988. At the end of the conference most participants agreed to one of three interpretations of Gaia:
     -Minimal: Life is a passenger on Earth. Any impact if has can be replaced by inorganic systems.
     -Weak: Life is a worker on Earth. Based on your comment, you can see how life influences and shapes systems but is not the controller or driving force.
     -Strong: Life is the captain of Earth. Life actively manipulates the environment and is critical to many systems.

    That Great Oxygenation Event I explained earlier was actually quite bad for most life at the time. Most microbes then were anaerobic, non-oxygen breathers. All the algae making O2 can been seen as massively polluting the atmosphere, killing off most other microbes.  It also likely lead to the Snowball Earth, due O2 replacing CO2 and methane in the air.

    It all worked out thankfully since O2 turned out to be great for multicellular and complex life. In fact the "Cambrian Explosion", when life underwent massive evolutionary development, may not have been possible without those previous "disasters".

    Another selfish critter can be the beaver. A family of them comes into a nice calm stream and proceed to dam it up while also deforesting the local area. The beavers obviously love their new flooded location to the detriment of prior residents. In a few years, more trees are felled and now the habitat is a wetland with a new set of denizens. Eventually the beavers leave to destroy more forest and the dam breaks away. The wetland likely drains away, leaving fertile soil for a meadow and new growth of trees.

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