National Academies Press: OpenBook

Effects of Past Global Change on Life (1995)


Suggested Citation:"REFERENCES." National Research Council. 1995. Effects of Past Global Change on Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4762.
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"REFERENCES." National Research Council. 1995. Effects of Past Global Change on Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4762.
Page 32
Suggested Citation:"REFERENCES." National Research Council. 1995. Effects of Past Global Change on Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4762.
Page 33

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OXYGEN AND PROTEROZOIC EVOLUTION: AN UPDATE 31 evolutionary innovation is usually indirect and depends on the removal of pre-existing ecological dominants to provide evolutionary opportunity. The thesis evaluated in this chapter is that the Archean and the Proterozoic Earth were different— that major environmental changes early in Earth history directly facilitated evolutionary innovation. The ecological specificity of many eubacteria and archaebacteria indicates that at some level this must surely be true for prokaryotic organisms (e.g., Knoll and Bauld, 1989). The Cloud model suggests that environmental-biological coevolution also applies to fundamental aspects of eukaryotic evolution, specifically to the profoundly important radiations of aerobic protists and animals. Proof of the relationship remains elusive, but accumulating evidence lends new support to the model's basic tenets. Continued research is needed to strengthen the paleontological and geochemical bases on which the empirical evidence for Proterozoic evolution and environmental change rests. Specifically, paleontological and organic geochemical research on Paleoproterozoic shales and other subtidal facies is needed to document in a more satisfactory fashion the early fossil record of eukaryotic photoautotrophs. Geochemical research on Neoproterozoic paleosols and additional indicators of PO2 are required to document the possible role of changing oxygen concentrations in latest Proterozoic environmental and evolutionary events. These outstanding questions provide an agenda by means of which we may finally be able to document what many scientists have long believed—that two of the most significant radiations in the history of life are linked closely to secular variations in atmospheric oxygen. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We acknowledge our deep debt to Preston Cloud for his articulation of fundamental problems in biological and environmental history. We thank Joseph Montoya, Mitchell Sogin, and John Postgate for useful discussions and advice. James Kasting and Kenneth Towe provided helpful reviews of the manuscript. Our research on problems of Precambrian paleontology and geochemistry is supported by NSF Grant BSR 88-17662 and NASA Grants NAGW893 (A.H.K.) and NAGW-599 (H.D.H.). REFERENCES Asmeron, Y., S. Jacobesen, and A. H. Knoll (1991). Sr isotope variations in Late Proterozoic sea water: Implications for crustal evolution, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 55, 2883-2894. Berkner, L. V., and L. C. Marshall (1965). On the origin and rise of oxygen concentration in the Earth's atmosphere, Journal of Atmospheric Science 22, 225-261. Betts, J. N., and H. D. Holland (1991). 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What can we expect as global change progresses? Will there be thresholds that trigger sudden shifts in environmental conditions—or that cause catastrophic destruction of life?

Effects of Past Global Change on Life explores what earth scientists are learning about the impact of large-scale environmental changes on ancient life—and how these findings may help us resolve today's environmental controversies.

Leading authorities discuss historical climate trends and what can be learned from the mass extinctions and other critical periods about the rise and fall of plant and animal species in response to global change. The volume develops a picture of how environmental change has closed some evolutionary doors while opening others—including profound effects on the early members of the human family.

An expert panel offers specific recommendations on expanding research and improving investigative tools—and targets historical periods and geological and biological patterns with the most promise of shedding light on future developments.

This readable and informative book will be of special interest to professionals in the earth sciences and the environmental community as well as concerned policymakers.

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