The Sun is becoming more luminous with time and will eventually overheat the biosphere. However, life cools the Earth by amplifying the rate of silicate rock weathering and maintaining a low level of atmospheric CO2. Recent studies indicate a much stronger biotic weathering effect than in models used to estimate the life span of the biosphere. Here we show that the resulting feedback lengthens the survival of complex life by delaying the loss of CO2 from the atmosphere. The weathering biota can potentially maintain the Earth in a habitable state when otherwise it would be too hot for them. If so, catastrophic warming rather than gradual CO2 starvation will terminate complex life. Despite the possibility of an irreversible collapse, the current biosphere should remain resilient to carbon cycle perturbation or mass extinction events for at least 0.8 Gyr and may survive for up to 1.2 Gyr.
Geophysical Research Letters
- Pub Date:
- May 2001
- Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Biosphere/atmosphere interactions;
- Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Evolution of the atmosphere;
- Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Geochemical cycles;
- Oceanography: Biological and Chemical: Biogeochemical cycles (1615)