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Revolutions that made the Earth$
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Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587049

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587049.001.0001

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The grand recycling coalition

The grand recycling coalition

(p.311) 16 The grand recycling coalition
Revolutions that made the Earth

Tim Lenton

Andrew Watson

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the new arrivals of the first part of the Phanerozoic, called the Paleozoic, which were the land plants. In greening the land surface they doubled the amount of free energy captured by the biosphere, and transformed the face of the Earth. The productivity per unit area on land today is, on average, more than double what it is in the ocean. To achieve this required the emergence of the most remarkable systems for acquiring and recycling water and nutrients to have graced the planet thus far. Probably the best example is the nutrient phosphorus. Plants and fungi selectively extract phosphorus from rocks, which is then recycled around 50 times in modern ecosystems.

Keywords:   land plants, Phanerozoic, Paleozoic, free energy, phosphorus, modern ecosystems

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