The Natural History of Earth: Debating Long-Term Change in the Geosphere and Biosphere

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2006-09-19
  • Publisher: Routledge

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Ferocious debates have always characterized the interpretation of Earth history. After a generally quieter period during the first half of the twentieth century, controversies re-ignited in many branches of the Earth and life sciences in the 1960s. Plate and plume tectonics, cosmic catastrophism, giant tsunamis, the origin of ice ages, punctuated equilibrium, the Gaia hypothesis, and many more have all led to intense arguments.The Natural History of the Earthprobes selected discussions within biology, climatology, geology, and geomorphology and explores a selection of debates about Earth and life history, considering their origins and their present state-of-play. The Natural History of the Earthfirstly outlines the arguments, placing them in an historical context and indicating their significance, whilst subsequent chapters deal with specific debates. In the geosphere section, the topics are geological processes (plate tectonics, plume tectonic, and expansion and contractiontectonics), the bombardment hypothesis (including cosmic missiles and periodic bombardment), frigid climates (the nature and origin of the last ice age, snowball and slushball climates, hothouse and icehouse climates), and cataclysmic floods (oceanic overspill, lake outbursts, mega-tsunamis, impact superfloods). In the section concerning the biosphere, the topics are evolutionary patterns (punctuated equilibrium versus gradualism, microevolution versus macroevolution, micromutation versus macromutation, and evolutionary hierarchy versus evolutionary continuum), mass extinctions (what they are, what causes them, their periodic nature), patterns in life's history (directionality, stasis and change, diversity cycles), and life-environment connections (the Gaia hypothesis). Using a broad selection of classic and current sources,The Natural History of the Earthbrings together debates from a wide range of Earth and life sciences. Written in a clear and accessible style, it will interest Earth andlife scientists, physical geographers, and any informed person fascinated by long-term Earth history. This accessible volume is illustrated throughout with over 50 informative diagrams, photographs, and tables.

Author Biography

Richard John Huggett is Reader in Physical Geography in the University of Manchester.

Table of Contents

List of plates, figures, and tablesp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introducing debatesp. 1
Debates and the geospherep. 1
Debates and the biospherep. 6
Building the Earthp. 11
Plate tectonicsp. 11
Plume tectonicsp. 20
Contraction and expansion tectonicsp. 25
Bombarding the Earthp. 32
The bombardment hypothesisp. 32
Cosmic missilesp. 37
Impact cratersp. 43
Periodic bombardment?p. 47
Freezing the Earthp. 50
The eventful ice agep. 50
What caused the last ice age?p. 58
Snowball or slushball Earth?p. 60
Hothouses and icehousesp. 68
Flooding the Earthp. 73
Oceanic overspillp. 73
Lake outburstsp. 76
Giant tsunamisp. 80
Impact superfloodsp. 86
Evolving lifep. 91
The tempo of evolutionp. 91
Macroevolution versus microevolutionp. 99
Micromutations or macromutations?p. 102
Hierarchy or continuum?p. 105
Destroying lifep. 110
What are mass extinctions?p. 110
What causes mass extinctions?p. 113
How fast do mass extinctions occur?p. 129
History of lifep. 133
Directionalityp. 133
Stasis and changep. 140
Diversity cyclesp. 149
Life in control?p. 156
The Gaia hypothesisp. 157
Criticizing Gaiap. 160
Testing Gaiap. 161
Bibliographyp. 167
Indexp. 199
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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