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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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Carbon and oxygen

Carbon and oxygen

(p.21) 2 Carbon and oxygen
Revolutions that made the Earth

Tim Lenton

Andrew Watson

Oxford University Press

This chapter goes back 2.7 billion years to touch upon a time when all the animals on Earth evolve from their common ancestor. With the evolution and spread of the cyanobacteria comes an Earth system that, in its basic chemistry, looks quite similar to what we know today. At this point in Earth history, there is enough evidence to describe how the chemistry of this system is working, and this seems a good moment to take stock of one of the great chemical cycles that keeps the planet habitable. The chapter focuses on the most fundamental elemental cycle for life, that of carbon. The primary producers are photosynthetic, requiring light, carbon dioxide, and water to get their energy and carbon. This role is played by the cyanobacteria, which gave rise to all the algae and plants which occupy the planet today.

Keywords:   common ancestor, evolution, cyanobacteria, Earth system, chemical cycles, fundamental elemental cycle, carbon

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