Biosphere

Biosphere

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The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s. It can also be called the zone of life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, a closed (apart from solar and cosmic radiation) and self-regulating system. From the broadest biophysiological
Geophysiology
Geophysiology is the study of interaction among living organisms on the Earth operating under the hypothesis that the Earth itself acts as a single living organism ....

 point of view, the biosphere is the global ecological
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 system integrating all living beings and their relationships, including their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

, hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

 and atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

. The biosphere is postulated to have evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, beginning through a process of biogenesis
Biogenesis
Biogenesis is the law that living things come only from other living things, e.g. a spider lays eggs, which develop into spiders. It may also refer to biochemical processes of production in living organisms.-Spontaneous generation:...

 or biopoesis, at least some 3.5 billion years ago.

In a broader sense; biospheres are any closed, self-regulating systems containing ecosystems; including artificial ones such as Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2
Biosphere 2 is a structure originally built to be an artificial, materially-closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO...

 and BIOS-3
BIOS-3
BIOS-3 is a closed ecosystem at the Institute of Biophysics in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.Its construction began in 1965, and was completed in 1972. BIOS-3 consists of a 315-cubic-metre habitat suitable for up to three persons, and was initially used for developing closed ecosystems capable of supporting...

; and, potentially, ones on other planets or moons.

Origin and use of the term


The term "biosphere" was coined by geologist Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess
Eduard Suess was a geologist who was an expert on the geography of the Alps. He is responsible for hypothesising two major former geographical features, the supercontinent Gondwana and the Tethys Ocean.Born in London to a Jewish Saxon merchant, when he was three his family relocated toPrague,...

 in 1875, which he defined as:


While this concept has a geological origin, it is an indication of the impact of both Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and 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
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

" by Sir Arthur Tansley
Arthur Tansley
Sir Arthur George Tansley FRS was an English botanist who was a pioneer in the science of ecology. He obtained his degree in Biological Science in 1896, with specialization in botany and zoology. From the start, he was much influenced by the Danish plant ecologist Eugenius Warming. He championed...

 (see ecology history). Vernadsky defined ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 as the science of the biosphere. It is an interdisciplinary concept for integrating astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

, geophysics
Geophysics
Geophysics is the physics of the Earth and its environment in space; also the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and...

, meteorology
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

, biogeography
Biogeography
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

, evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, geology
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, geochemistry
Geochemistry
The field of geochemistry involves study of the chemical composition of the Earth and other planets, chemical processes and reactions that govern the composition of rocks, water, and soils, and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space, and...

, hydrology
Hydrology
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

 and, generally speaking, all life and earth sciences.

Narrow definition


Some life scientists and earth scientists use biosphere in a more limited sense. For example, geochemists define the biosphere as being the total sum of living organisms (the "biomass
Biomass (ecology)
Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms,...

" or "biota
Biota (ecology)
Biota are the total collection of organisms of a geographic region or a time period, from local geographic scales and instantaneous temporal scales all the way up to whole-planet and whole-timescale spatiotemporal scales. The biota of the Earth lives in the biosphere.-See...

" 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 lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

, hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

, and atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

. The narrow meaning used by geochemists is one of the consequences of specialization in modern science. Some might prefer the word ecosphere, coined in the 1960s, as all encompassing of both biological and physical components of the planet.

The Second International Conference on Closed Life Systems defined biospherics as the science and technology of analogs and models of Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

's biosphere; i.e., artificial Earth-like biospheres. Others may include the creation of artificial non-Earth biospheres—for example, human-centered biospheres or a native Martian
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 biosphere—in the field of biospherics.

Gaia hypothesis


In the early 1970s, Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis
Lynn Margulis was an American biologist and University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is best known for her theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles, and her contributions to the endosymbiotic theory, which is now generally accepted...

, a microbiologist from the United States, added to the hypothesis, specifically noting the ties between the biosphere and other Earth systems. For example, when carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 levels increase in the atmosphere, plants grow more quickly. As their growth continues, they remove more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Many scientists are now involved in new fields of study that examine interactions between biotic and abiotic factors in the biosphere, such as geobiology
Geobiology
Broadly defined, geobiology is an interdisciplinary field of scientific research that explores interactions between the biosphere and the lithosphere and/or the atmosphere....

 and geomicrobiology
Geomicrobiology
Geomicrobiology is the result of the combination of geology and microbiology. The field of geomicrobiology concerns the role of microbe and microbial processes in geological and geochemical processes and vice-versa...

.

Ecosystems occur when communities and their physical environment work together as a system. The difference between this and a biosphere is simple, the biosphere is everything in general terms.

Extent of Earth's biosphere


Every part of the planet, from the polar
Polar region
Earth's polar regions are the areas of the globe surrounding the poles also known as frigid zones. The North Pole and South Pole being the centers, these regions are dominated by the polar ice caps, resting respectively on the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica...

 ice caps to the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

, supports life of some kind. Recent advances in microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

 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
Biomass
Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel....

, 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 of 650 to 1,800 mettrs, and fish that live deep underwater can be found down to -8,372 metres in the Puerto Rico Trench
Puerto Rico Trench
The Puerto Rico Trench is an oceanic trench located on the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The trench is associated with a complex transition between the subduction zone to the south along the Lesser Antilles island arc and the major transform fault zone or plate boundary...

.

There are more extreme examples for life on the planet: Rüppell's vulture
Rüppell's Vulture
Rüppell's Vulture is a large vulture that occurs throughout the Sahel region of central Africa. The current population of 30,000 is in decline due to ongoing loss of habitat and other pressures...

 has been found at altitude
Altitude
Altitude or height is defined based on the context in which it is used . As a general definition, altitude is a distance measurement, usually in the vertical or "up" direction, between a reference datum and a point or object. The reference datum also often varies according to the context...

s of 11,300 metres; bar-headed geese
Bar-headed Goose
The Bar-headed Goose is a goose which breeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India. It lays three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest....

 migrate at altitudes of at least 8,300 metres; yak
Yak
The yak, Bos grunniens or Bos mutus, is a long-haired bovine found throughout the Himalayan region of south Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. In addition to a large domestic population, there is a small, vulnerable wild yak population...

s live at elevations between 3,200 to 5,400 metres above sea level; mountain goat
Mountain goat
The Mountain Goat , also known as the Rocky Mountain Goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. Despite its vernacular name, it is not a member of Capra, the genus of true goats...

s live up to 3,050 metres. Herbivorous animals at these elevations depend on lichens, grasses, and herbs.

Microscopic organisms live at such extremes that, taking them into consideration puts the thickness of the biosphere much greater. Culturable microbes have been found in the Earth's upper atmosphere as high as 41 km (25 mi) (Wainwright et al., 2003, in FEMS Microbiology Letters). It is unlikely, however, that microbes are active at such altitudes, where temperatures and air pressure are extremely low and ultraviolet radiation very high. More likely these microbes were brought into the upper atmosphere by winds or possibly volcanic eruptions. Barophilic
Piezophile
A piezophile is an organism which thrives at high pressures, such as deep sea bacteria or archaea. They are generally found on ocean floors, where pressure often exceeds 380 atm . Some have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean where the maximum pressure is roughly 117 MPa...

 marine microbes have been found at more than 10 km (6 mi) depth in the Marianas Trench (Takamia et al., 1997, in FEMS Microbiology Letters). Microbes are not limited to the air, water or the Earth's surface. Culturable thermophilic microbes have been extracted from cores drilled more than 5 km (3 mi) into the Earth's crust in Sweden (Gold, 1992, and Szewzyk, 1994, both in PNAS), from rocks between 65-75 °C. Temperature increases with increasing depth
Geothermal gradient
Geothermal gradient is the rate of increasing temperature with respect to increasing depth in the Earth's interior. Away from tectonic plate boundaries, it is 25–30°C per km of depth in most of the world. Strictly speaking, geo-thermal necessarily refers to the Earth but the concept may be applied...

 into the Earth's crust. The speed at which the temperature increases depends on many factors, including type of crust (continental vs. oceanic), rock type, geographic location, etc. The upper known limit of temperature at which microbial life can exist is 122 °C (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.

Our biosphere is divided into a number of biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s, inhabited by broadly similar flora and fauna. On land, biomes are separated primarily by latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

. Terrestrial biomes lying within the Arctic
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

 and Antarctic Circle
Antarctic Circle
The Antarctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs south of the Equator.-Description:...

s are relatively barren of plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

 and animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

 life, while most of the more populous biomes lie near the equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

. Terrestrial organisms in temperate and Arctic biomes have relatively small amounts of total biomass, smaller energy budgets, and display prominent adaptations to cold, including world-spanning migrations, social adaptations, homeothermy, estivation
Estivation
Aestivation is a state of animal dormancy, characterized by inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate, that is entered in response to high temperatures and arid conditions...

 and multiple layers of insulation.

Specific biospheres


When the word is followed by a number, it is usually referring to a specific system or number. Thus:
  • Biosphere 1, the planet Earth
    Earth
    Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

  • Biosphere 2
    Biosphere 2
    Biosphere 2 is a structure originally built to be an artificial, materially-closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO...

    , a laboratory in Arizona which contains 3.15 acres (13,000 m²) of closed ecosystem.
  • BIOS-3
    BIOS-3
    BIOS-3 is a closed ecosystem at the Institute of Biophysics in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.Its construction began in 1965, and was completed in 1972. BIOS-3 consists of a 315-cubic-metre habitat suitable for up to three persons, and was initially used for developing closed ecosystems capable of supporting...

    , a closed ecosystem at the Institute of Biophysics in Krasnoyarsk
    Krasnoyarsk
    Krasnoyarsk is a city and the administrative center of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located on the Yenisei River. It is the third largest city in Siberia, with the population of 973,891. Krasnoyarsk is an important junction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and one of Russia's largest producers of...

    , Siberia
    Siberia
    Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

    , in what was then the Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

    .
  • Biosphere J (CEEF, Closed Ecology Experiment Facilities), an experiment in Japan.

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