Navigation Links
First plants caused ice ages
Date:2/1/2012

New research reveals how the arrival of the first plants 470 million years ago triggered a series of ice ages. Led by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, the study is published today (1 February 2012) in Nature Geoscience.

The team set out to identify the effects that the first land plants had on the climate during the Ordovician Period, which ended 444 million years ago. During this period the climate gradually cooled, leading to a series of 'ice ages'. This global cooling was caused by a dramatic reduction in atmospheric carbon, which this research now suggests was triggered by the arrival of plants.

Among the first plants to grow on land were the ancestors of mosses that grow today. This study shows that they extracted minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron from rocks in order to grow. In so doing, they caused chemical weathering of the Earth's surface. This had a dramatic impact on the global carbon cycle and subsequently on the climate. It could also have led to a mass extinction of marine life.

The research suggests that the first plants caused the weathering of calcium and magnesium ions from silicate rocks, such as granite, in a process that removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, forming new carbonate rocks in the ocean. This cooled global temperatures by around five degrees Celsius.

In addition, by weathering the nutrients phosphorus and iron from rocks, the first plants increased the quantities of both these nutrients going into the oceans, fuelling productivity there and causing organic carbon burial. This removed yet more carbon from the atmosphere, further cooling the climate by another two to three degrees Celsius. It could also have had a devastating impact on marine life, leading to a mass extinction that has puzzled scientists.

The team used the modern moss, Physcomitrella patens for their study. They placed a number of rocks, with or without moss growing on them, into incubators. Over three months they were able to measure the effects the moss had on the chemical weathering of the rocks.

They then used an Earth system model to establish what difference plants could have made to climate change during the Ordovician Period.

One of the lead researchers, Professor Tim Lenton of the University of Exeter said: "This study demonstrates the powerful effects that plants have on our climate. Although plants are still cooling the Earth's climate by reducing atmospheric carbon levels, they cannot keep up with the speed of today's human-induced climate change. In fact, it would take millions of years for plants to remove current carbon emissions from the atmosphere."

Professor Liam Dolan of Oxford University, one of the lead researchers, said: "For me the most important take-home message is that the invasion of the land by plants a pivotal time in the history of the planet brought about huge climate changes. Our discovery emphasises that plants have a central regulatory role in the control of climate: they did yesterday, they do today and they certainly will in the future."


'/>"/>
Contact: Sarah Hoyle
s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk
44-013-927-22062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. UMass Amherst ecologists among the first to record and study deep-sea fish noises
2. Aria Diagnostics announces publication of first peer-reviewed data for new noninvasive prenatal test
3. OHSU research produces the worlds first primate chimeric offspring
4. UofL physicians, Jewish Hospital first in Kentucky to offer new aortic valve replacement
5. Simple blood test in the first trimester predicts fetal gender
6. Jeanne Baret, botanist and first female circumnavigator, finally commemorated in name of new species
7. Severe congenital disorder successfully treated in a mouse model for the first time
8. NIST releases first certified reference material for single-wall carbon nanotubes
9. Head-first diversity shown to drive vertebrate evolution
10. First aid after tick bites
11. Chinese scientists announce the first complete sequencing of Mongolian genome
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/15/2016)... Germany , December 15, 2016 ... today announced an agreement with NuData Security, an award-winning ... The partnership will enable clients to focus on good customer ... data protection regulation. ... In order to provide a one-stop fraud prevention ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... 2016 Advancements in biometrics will ... and wellbeing (HWW), and security of vehicles ... passenger vehicles begin to feature fingerprint recognition, ... beat monitoring, brain wave monitoring, stress detection, ... pulse detection. These will be driven by ...
(Date:12/12/2016)...  Researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, are opening ... the material with Silly Putty. The mixture (known as ... to sense pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and even ... The research team,s findings were published Thursday ... http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6317/1257 ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/13/2017)... ... January 13, 2017 , ... ... demand that it has found among its diverse customer base. The latest entry ... in most brands electroporators including BTX and Bio-Rad. FireflySci is introducing three distinct ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... ... January 12, 2017 , ... ... of performing routine electrochemical biosensing has increased dramatically. Primarily driven by the ... and quantification of various analytes in complex samples. , Screen-printed ...
(Date:1/12/2017)... 2017   Protein Sciences Corporation , a ... Flublok Influenza Vaccine ®, announced today that its ... safety results and induced strong neutralizing antibodies against ... is expected to advance into human clinical trials ... Institute of Technology in Immunobiologicals of the Oswaldo ...
(Date:1/11/2017)... ... January 11, 2017 , ... Phase 1 clinical trial ... of the investigational anti-cancer agent tucatinib (formerly ONT-380) against HER2+ breast cancer. The ... percent of these heavily pretreated patients saw clinical benefit from the drug, with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: