This concise undergraduate textbook brings together Earth and biological sciences to explore the co-evolution of the Earth and life over geological time. Written for a one-semester course, it explores the Earth system at and above the surface of the Earth by examining the interactions and feedback processes between the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. It also explains how the Earth's surface environment involves a complex interplay between these systems. Through a wealth of features and student questioning, the book allows students to understand how physical controls make our planet hospitable for life, investigate the processes of global change that operate on a range of timescales, understand important cross-disciplinary connections and explore how the whole Earth system has evolved. Finally, it assesses how and why the climate of the Earth has varied over geological time, and considers whether life itself is passive or an active agent for change.
Charles Cockell is Professor of Microbiology at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK. His academic interests lie in geomicrobiology, astrobiology and space exploration and he has undertaken expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, among other places, to study life in extreme environments. Professor Cockell has written and edited six other books including Impossible Extinction (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
1. A habitable planet; 2. The emergence and persistence of life; 3. The carbon cycle; 4. Plate tectonics, climate and life; 5. Mountains and climate change; 6. Life in the Phanerozoic; 7. The Earth at extremes; 8. Summary; Answers to questions; Appendices; Further reading; Glossary; Index.