We explain what the biosphere is, its history, components of biosphere and layers. In addition, what are the Unesco Biosphere Reserves.
What is the biosphere?
The biosphere or biosphere is the “living envelope” of planet Earth , that is, the total set of life forms (animal, plant, microbial, etc.) and the system that conform to their respective environments, located in the superficial portion of the earth ‘s crust . In other words, the biosphere is the global ecosystem , which includes all local ecosystems.
The biosphere emerged on our planet about 3.5 billion years ago , and since then it evolves in complexity and biodiversity , despite having gone through numerous mass extinctions. The human being is part of it, and therefore also its communities, nations and cities .
The term biosphere was coined by the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess (1831-1914), but began to be used formally in scientific studies in 1920, thanks to Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadski (1863-1945), even before the term ecosystem , appeared in 1935
Biosphere is nowadays a term of common use in the areas of astronomy , geology , climatology, paleogeography and other similar disciplines, always referring to life on Earth.
Components of biosphere
On the one hand, the biosphere is composed of life forms in themselves, that is, by the total of human beings, animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms and others. In addition, it is also composed of the different biogeochemical cycles that make life support possible , which take place on the earth’s surface.
This is because the biosphere is not a passive stratum in which living beings already live. On the contrary, it is a vast network of chemical exchange with the environment , at different levels of organization and complexity.
Layers of the biosphere
The biosphere has no layers , because it is not something that has a structure in itself. However, it converges three systems that could be understood as fundamental for its maintenance, which are:
- Geosphere . The physical and solid layer of the Earth, on whose surface life is produced.
- 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.
- Atmosphere . The heterogeneous gas ball that covers the geosphere, and that 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 in the Solar System , since Earth is the only planet on which life has been known. This may mean that the location and properties of the Earth are unique or extremely rare, and that therefore the emergence of the biosphere is something of supreme importance.
In addition, the biochemical processes undertaken by different life forms alter the environment , adding or subtracting elements in various compounds, which in turn affects the geochemical state of the world.
For example, the emergence of photosynthesis during the pre-Cambrian period greatly influenced the composition of the atmosphere, filling it with oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide, which allowed the gradual cooling of the planet, reducing the greenhouse effect of atmospheric heavy gases .
Biosphere and atmosphere
The terms biosphere and atmosphere are synonyms and are often used interchangeably.
Biosphere reserves are called certain regions of the planet that are considered representative of the various habitats . Given their great scientific interest and their enormous contribution to biodiversity, they have special support from Unesco , within the framework of the Human Being and Biosphere Program opened in 1971.
These “reserves” are not protected areas , nor are they contemplated in any international treaty. They are part of the territorial sovereignty of their respective countries, but at the same time they are part of a worldwide network of spaces sponsored by Unesco given their interest for ecologically sustainable Development.
Today there are 701 biosphere reserves in 124 different countries.