Research in biogeochemistry has expanded rapidly over recent years as the field could provide answers to major scientific and societal challenges such as climate change, contamination of groundwater, and food security. Yet it dates back almost a century: Its origins are usually attributed to Ukrainian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky whose 1926 book The Biosphere proposed that the Earth's surface could not be understood in terms of pure geochemistry unlike Mars or Venus or other planets, but required full integration of life. The key point, popularized around half a century later by James Lovelock with his controversial Gaia Hypothesis, was that living organisms are integral to the chemistry of the planet surface and inseparable from it. While the strong version of Gaia, that the surface of the planet can itself be regarded as a super self‐regulating organism subject to evolution, is rejected by most scientists, the fundamental idea that life has imbued every aspect of surface chemistry and left its fingerprints within the Earth's mantle has become mainstream.
… the fundamental idea that life has imbued every aspect of surface chemistry and left its fingerprints within the Earth's mantle, has become mainstream.
Biogeochemistry is now firmly rooted on fundamental principles that govern the global cycles of the four most important elements for life: carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus, along with other minerals that participate in surface chemistry. The “natural” movement of those four elements—as well as major elements with toxic properties such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium—has been augmented by human activities such as mining and industrial production. This added human dimension lies at the heart of applied biogeochemistry and has helped provoke an upsurge in research, according to William Schlesinger, recently president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. “I think there are two reasons. First, we are beginning to …
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