What is the Biosphere?

The biosphere or biosphere is the “living cells” of planet earth, ie the totality of life forms (animal, plant, microbe, etc.) and the system that they form with their respective environment, in the superficial part of the earth’s crust. In other words, the biosphere is the global ecosystem that includes all local ecosystems.

The biosphere was formed about 3.5 billion years ago on our planet and has since evolved in terms of complexity and biodiversity despite numerous mass extinctions. Man is a part of it and with its communities, nations, and cities.

The term biosphere was coined by the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914), but thanks to the Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945) it was formally used in scientific studies before the term ecosystem appeared in 1935.

The biosphere is now a term used in the fields of astronomy, geology, climatology, paleogeography, and other similar disciplines, and always refers to life on earth.

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Definition of biosphere

The biosphere can be described as the total of all ecosystems that take place on planet earth and that make them up. The biosphere includes not only all living things but also the physical environment in which they live and the phenomena that occur in it. Defined by many specialists as the space in which life takes place, the biosphere makes planet earth unique in the solar system, as it is to this day the only place where the existence of life is known. Also, the term biosphere includes all relationships that can exist between different living beings and between them and the environment.

To be able to define the biosphere in other terms as a global or planetary ecosystem, we can point out that it is percentage distributed between the oceans and the continents, spaces in which different types of ecosystems and habitats (with very specific Features) are space. While most of the life in the oceans takes place on a more or less superficial level, one can also speak of the deep biosphere, in which certain types of life develop at the level of the seafloor.

Components of the biosphere

On the one hand, the biosphere consists of the life forms themselves, that is, the totality of humans, animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms, and others. Also, it consists of the various biogeochemical cycles that make it possible to sustain life on the earth’s surface.

This is because the biosphere is not a passive layer that living things live in and now. On the contrary, it is a vast network of chemical exchanges with the environment at various levels of organization and complexity.

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 Layers of the biosphere

The biosphere has no layers because it has no structure in itself. However, three systems converge that can be considered fundamental for maintenance:

  1. Geosphere. The physical and solid layer of the Earth, on whose surface life occurs.
  2. Hydrosphere. The set of all bodies of liquid and solid water that exist on the planet, and without which life would not have been and would not be possible.
  3. Atmosphere. The heterogeneous ball of gases covers the geosphere and provides the essential gases for life as we know it, particularly the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) necessary for photosynthesis and the oxygen (O) necessary for respiration.

Importance of the biosphere

The biosphere is unique to the solar system in that the earth is the only planet known to have life. This may mean that the Earth’s location and characteristics are unique or extremely rare and therefore the formation of the biosphere is of paramount importance.

Besides, the biochemical processes of the various life forms change the environment, adding or subtracting elements in different compounds, which in turn affects the geochemical state of the world.

For example, the appearance of photosynthesis during the Precambrian period greatly influenced the composition of the atmosphere, filling it with oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide, which allowed the planet to gradually cool down and reduced the greenhouse effect of heavy atmospheric gases.

Biosphere and Ecosphere

The terms biosphere and ecosphere are synonymous and are often used synonymously.

Biosphere reserves

It is called a biosphere reserve for certain regions of the planet that are considered representative of the different habitats. Due to their great scientific interest and their enormous contribution to biological diversity, they receive special support from Unesco as part of the program on man and the biosphere, inaugurated in 1971.

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These “reserves” are neither protected areas nor are they provided for in an international treaty. They are part of the territorial sovereignty of their respective countries, but at the same time part of a worldwide network of spaces sponsored by Unesco, as they are interested in ecologically sustainable development.

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