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The emerald planet: how plants changed…
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The emerald planet: how plants changed Earth's history (2007)

by David Beerling

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This book was recommended by Steven Johnson in The Invention of Air. I was not as drawn into it as I'd expected to be, but part of the trouble is that I'd set myself a deadline. A chart maps each chapter onto the time frame it covers, and it's a handy thing that I kept marked for reference. I have not memorized the geologic eras. Each chapter begins with a paragraph summary, and covers a major issue, such as why were plants and animals so big 300 million years ago, or how did the polar forests of 150 million years ago cope with extreme durations of sunlight and darkness, supported by lots of detail about explorers and scientists who made progress in answering the question. A continuous theme is that understanding climate, and the contributions and reactions of plants to it, at any time in the past, helps with understanding how to model it in the present. This is all useful and interesting, and impressive even, to see how many people over how many decades are involved in chipping away at a problem, and yet... I found it to be rather tedious going -- too many names and dates and bits and pieces that detracted from essentials.

(read 29 May 2011)
1 vote qebo | Jul 16, 2011 |
Vignettes about plant life on the planet and how plants engineer the environment.
  FolkeB | Dec 7, 2010 |
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The great evolutionary biologist J B S Haldane (1892-1964), on being asked by a cleric what biology could say about the Creator, entertainingly replied, 'I'm really not sure, except that the Creator, if he exists, must have an inordinate fondness of beetles.'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199548145, Paperback)

Global warming is contentious and difficult to measure, even among the majority of scientists who agree that it is taking place. Will temperatures rise by 2ºC or 8ºC over the next hundred years? Will sea levels rise by 2 or 30 feet? The only way that we can accurately answer questions like these is by looking into the distant past, for a comparison with the world long before the rise of mankind. We may currently believe that atmospheric shifts, like global warming, result from our impact on the planet, but the earth's atmosphere has been dramatically shifting since its creation. Drawing on evidence from fossil plants and animals, computer models of the atmosphere, and experimental studies, David Beerling reveals the crucial role that plants have played in determining atmospheric change--and hence the conditions on the planet we know today-- something that has often been overlooked amidst the preoccuputations with dinosaur bones and animal fossils. "Beerling uses evidence from the plant fossil record (mutant spores, tree stumps from the Artic and Antarctic, growth rings) to reconstruct past climates and to help explain mass extinctions. Too often this evidence has been disregarded, but Beerling gives it its due, and then some."--BioScience

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:28 -0400)

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A wonderful, interdisciplinary approach examining the role of plants in Earth's history. Reveals the extraordinary amount that plants can tell us about the history of the planet - something that has often been overlooked amongst the preoccupations with dinosaur bones and animal fossils. Provides a fascinating perspective on the controversial and crucial subject of global warming. Explains current science in an accessible and entertaining way.… (more)

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