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The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History

The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History

Hardback

By (author) David Beerling

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 312 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 218mm x 28mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 5 April 2007
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0192806025
  • ISBN 13: 9780192806024
  • Illustrations note: 13 figures, 16 halftone plates
  • Sales rank: 352,673

Product description

Plants have transformed our planet over the last 470 million years as they invaded the land and diversified into the astonishing variety we know today. But their influence has reached even further: they have profoundly moulded the Earth's climate and the evolutionary trajectory of life. Far from being 'silent witnesses to the passage of time', plants are dynamic components of our world, shaping the environment throughout history as much as that environment has shaped them. In The Emerald Planet, David Beerling puts plants centre stage, revealing the crucial role they have played in driving global changes in the environment, in recording hidden facets of Earth's history, and in helping us to predict its future. His account draws together evidence from fossil plants, from experiments with their living counterparts, and from computer models of the 'Earth System', to illuminate the history of our planet and its biodiversity. This new approach reveals how plummeting carbon dioxide levels removed a barrier to the evolution of the leaf; how forests once grew on Antarctica, how plants played a starring role in allowing spectacular giant insects to thrive in the Carboniferous; and strengthens fascinating and contentious fossil evidence for an ancient hole in the ozone layer. Along the way, Beerling introduces a lively cast of pioneering scientists from Victorian times onwards whose discoveries provided the crucial background to these and the other puzzles. This new understanding of our planet's past sheds a sobering light on our own climate-changing activities, and offers clues to what our climatic and ecological futures might look like. There could be no more important time to take a close look at plants, and to understand the history of the world through the stories they tell.

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Author information

David Beerling is Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the University of Sheffield. Before this he held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. His work on the evolution of life and the physical environment was recognized by the award of a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in Earth Sciences in 2001. He has published many papers in scientific journals and is co-author of Vegetation and the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle: Modelling the first 400 million years (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

Review quote

If I can find a fault with this book it is that each subsequent chapter is so engrossing that it drives the author's previous deliberations from my head... I will return to this book again and again. Lyn Dunachie, Glasgow Natural History Society David Beerling's book is both fascinating and important. P D Smith, The Guardian An illuminating account of the ways "greenhouse gases, genes, and geochemistry" are linked. P D Smith, The Guardian My favourite non-fiction book this year...[a] highly readable history of the last half-billion years on earth Oliver Sacks, Observer Books of the Year David Beerling tells two stories in parallel. Both are eloquently and engagingly merged in a scholarly, yet generally accessible book...Beerling provides for the reader a fascinating history of the discovery of fossils and the inferences drawn from them...this book is a wonderful example of the nascent field of Earth systems science. Paul Falkowski, Nature ...of great value and relevance to all interested in plants, climate and, equally, the future of our 'emerald planet'. John MacLeod, RHS Professor of Horticulture, Garden David Beerling's fascinating new book offers a new global perspective on the evolution of our planet...[a] vivid account...The environmental legacy of the plant kingdom upon our world can only be better appreciated after reading this book. Louis Ronse De Craene A beautifully detailed account...a gorgeous book. Steven Poole, The Guardian (Review) [A] fascinating overview of green evolution. Karl Dallas, Morning Star Within these pages is one of the greatest stories ever told ... It is as fascinating as it is important. New Scientist The Emerald Planet is a serious talking-to about why plants must not be ignored. Jonathan Silvertown, TLS

Table of contents

Preface ; 1. Introduction ; 2. Leaves, genes and greenhouse gases ; 3. Oxygen and the lost world of giants ; 4. An ancient ozone catastrophe? ; 5. Global warming ushers in the dinosaur era ; 6. The flourishing forests of Antarctica ; 7. Paradise lost ; 8. Nature's green revolution ; 9. Through a glass darkly ; Notes ; Index