Do animals control earth’s oxygen level?Phys.org #Hours_AgoSeptember 11, 2019
The first larger animals evolved in what is today known as the Cambrian explosion.
In a new scientific study, researchers from the GLOBE Institute at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, have now found that the animals themselves probably contributed to an adjustment of the oxygen level and thus indirectly controlled their own development.
“For the first time, we have succeeded in measuring ‘Earth’s heartbeat’—understood as the dynamics between the oxygen level and the productivity on Earth.
We have found that it is not just the environment and the oxygen level that affect the animals, but that, most likely, the animals affect the oxygen level,” says Associate Professor Tais Wittchen Dahl from the GLOBE Institute.
To understand what controls the oxygen level on Earth, the researchers have looked at limestone deposited on the ocean floor during the Cambrian explosion 540-520 million years ago.
Phosphate is a nutrient for algae in the oceans, and algae make photosynthesis, which produces oxygen.
“In this way, the mud burrowing animals themselves helped control the oxygen level and slow down the otherwise explosive evolution of life.
Understanding the mechanisms that control the oxygen level on our planet is not just important for life on Earth.
And if life in itself helps control the oxygen level, it is much more likely that there will also be life in places where oxygen is present,” says Wittchen Dahl.
As it is not possible to test how you might influence the global oxygen level today, scientists must instead resort to the past to gain an understanding of the dynamics that make up Earth’s heartbeat—and in this way perhaps make it a little easier to understand life on our own and on other planets.
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