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Thanks to Plants, We Will Never Find a Planet Like Earth
Scientific American ^ | 2/1/12 | Mark Fischetti

Posted on 02/08/2012 6:01:06 PM PST by LibWhacker

Earth's flora is responsible for the glaciers and rivers that have created this planet's distinctive landscape

Astronomers are finding lots of exoplanets that are orbiting stars like the sun, significantly raising the odds that we will find a similar world. But if we do, the chance that the surface of that planet will look like ours is very small, thanks to an unlikely culprit: plants.

We all know how Earth's landscape came about, right? Oceans and land masses formed, mountains rose, and precipitation washed over its surface; rivers weathered bare rock to create soil and plants took root. Well, new research indicates that the last stage of this scenario is not right. Vascular plants—those with structures such as xylem and phloem that can conduct water—are what created the rivers and muds that built the soils that led to forests and farmland.

The evidence that vascular plants were a primary force that shaped Earth's surface is laid out in a special issue of Nature Geoscience, posted online today. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) In one article, Timothy Lenton, an Earth systems scientist at the University of Exeter in England, presents data from the biogeochemical record showing that the evolution of vascular plants around 450 million years ago is what really began to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, more so than organisms in the oceans. As a result, global temperatures dropped, initiating a cycle of widespread glaciation and melting that, over millions more years, would significantly grind Earth’s surface.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, vascular plants formed the kinds of rivers we see around us today, according to another article by Martin Gibling of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and Neil Davies of the University of Ghent in Belgium, who analyzed sediment deposition going back hundreds of millions of years. Before the era of plants, water ran over Earth's landmasses in broad sheets, with no defined courses. Only when enough vegetation grew to break down rock into minerals and mud, and then hold that mud in place, did river banks form and begin to channel the water. The channeling led to periodic flooding that deposited sediment over broad areas, building up rich soil. The soil allowed trees to take root. Their woody debris fell into the rivers, creating logjams that rapidly created new channels and caused even more flooding, setting up a feedback loop that eventually supported forests and fertile plains.

"Sedimentary rocks, before plants, contained almost no mud," explains Gibling, a professor of Earth science at Dalhousie. "But after plants developed, the mud content increased dramatically. Muddy landscapes expanded greatly. A new kind of eco-space was created that wasn't there before."

Which brings us to the cosmic consequences. "Plants are not passive passengers on the planet's surface system," Gibling says. "They create the surface system. Organisms tool the environment: the atmosphere, the landscapes, the oceans all develop incredible complexity once plant life grows." So as Nature Geoscience's editors state in an editorial for their special edition, "Even if there are a number of planets that could support tectonics, running water and the chemical cycles that are essential for life as we know it, it seems unlikely that any of them would look like Earth." Because even if plants do sprout, they will evolve differently, crafting a different surface on the orb they call home.


TOPICS: Astronomy; Science
KEYWORDS: darwinsearthworms; exoplanets; mud; ntsa; plants; vascular; xplanets

1 posted on 02/08/2012 6:01:19 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker; a fool in paradise

Then, kill all plants!


2 posted on 02/08/2012 6:06:10 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: LibWhacker

Way cool.


3 posted on 02/08/2012 6:08:33 PM PST by Upstate NY Guy
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To: LibWhacker

How will we find life among the stars? Looking for free oxygen (O2), a substance highly unlikely to find in nature, since it reacts with nearly everything not created by a reaction with it. It can only exist free if it is renewed by highly endothermic (energy-absorbing) reactions, such as created by plants.


4 posted on 02/08/2012 6:10:00 PM PST by dangus
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To: LibWhacker

I personally think that when we truly move into space, we’ll be genetically altering ourselves to fit the planets we choose to live on in a narrow band of environments.

I was actually happy to see this play into a pretty decent sci fi flick i watched the other night. Just hope that the people don’t evolve into canibals specifically adapted to the ship like they did in “Pandorum”.


5 posted on 02/08/2012 6:11:07 PM PST by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: LibWhacker
Some years ago, I read a magazine article, I don't remember where, perhaps it was in the Psychic Institute's newspaper, that said that (paraphrasing) "some of your co-workers may be alien plants from another planet". I should have kept it, but I placed it in the mailbox of my co-worker, who was a former Franciscan priest.
6 posted on 02/08/2012 6:13:52 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: dangus

That was the premise of movies like Alien/s or Red Planet with Val Kilmer where humans sent plant spores to terra-nize the planets for colonization which is the normal step. God knows how hard it is to live amongst brain-dead liberals.


7 posted on 02/08/2012 6:19:06 PM PST by max americana (Buttcrack Obama is an idiot)
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To: LibWhacker

Name any Planet that we know of that can support Fire and that Planet will have Life on it

TT


8 posted on 02/08/2012 6:25:12 PM PST by TexasTransplant (Radical islam is islam. Moderate islam is the Trojan Horse.)
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To: TexasTransplant

Sun?


9 posted on 02/08/2012 6:27:45 PM PST by Revolting cat! (Let us prey!)
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To: Revolting cat!

Sorry the sun does not “BURN” as in Fire ... looks similar from our perspective

TT


10 posted on 02/08/2012 6:33:48 PM PST by TexasTransplant (Radical islam is islam. Moderate islam is the Trojan Horse.)
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To: LibWhacker
Whne they figure out what kind of forests are on Mars, perhaps they'll change their tune:


11 posted on 02/08/2012 6:35:31 PM PST by MHGinTN (Being deceived can be cured.)
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To: TexasTransplant
Name any Planet that we know of that can support Fire and that Planet will have Life on it.

That's actually a pretty decent measuring stick as far as atmospheric conditions are concerned.
12 posted on 02/08/2012 6:38:25 PM PST by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: LibWhacker

This article really said nothing to support the title, or about other planets at all. If they have plants the plants may be different. Ok.


13 posted on 02/08/2012 6:50:18 PM PST by Williams (Honey Badger Don't Care)
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To: Williams

Yeah I don’t think many of us expect to find an apple tree on another planet. However in a universe created by God you never know.

Personally I think goats are aliens cause they sure as heck ain’t local.


14 posted on 02/08/2012 7:18:58 PM PST by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: MHGinTN
The Martian "trees" are a real anomaly. What are they? I've seen photos of other "trees" on Mars that look like giant banyan trees. Strange stuff indeed.


15 posted on 02/08/2012 7:20:17 PM PST by 6SJ7 (Meh.)
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To: 6SJ7
Years ago, when first I saw them, I thought perhaps they were crystal growths. Well, turns out the size precludes that guess. And, the masses of the 'things' appear more like shrubbery growth. Perhaps these are a life form which tends to resemble crystals, but the weather on Mars would tend to blunt such growths. The patterns tend to darken and lighten with the seasonal changes on Mars.

Many years ago, when the first robotic pix were coming back from Mars, I found what appeared to be pipes in a block of something. Who knows, perhaps Tom Van Flandern was right, Mars was the satellite of a larger planet with lots of water which planet exploded, damaging Mars in the process and ruining the 'resort Moon'.

16 posted on 02/08/2012 7:28:50 PM PST by MHGinTN (Being deceived can be cured.)
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To: LibWhacker
It's much more likely that the plants here are the same as the plants there, or anywhere.

There are only so many possibilities, and over a sufficiently long enough period they should all be exercised.

It's something most likely built into DNA hundreds of billions of years ago in millions of different universes with which we no longer have contact.

It's pretty obvious DNA is a really smart cookie ~ it self assembles itself into all sorts of configurations, and with its companion RNA, and the use of epigenetics, and now we find, micro-RNA, it can do almost anything it wishes, and does so.

There's a quantum super computer in there somewhere and "it knows what to do".

17 posted on 02/08/2012 7:43:20 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: Upstate NY Guy
I had a fifth grade science teacher who took us out on a field trip one day during the spring thaw. We walked within about a half mile radius of the school.

He pointed out all of this in miniature. There were receding snowbanks depositing sediment, new water channels being formed where there was no grass or other root vegetation to hold it back, snow in the shade which melted far more slowly and unevenly producing entirely different run-off patterns and even miniature canyons being formed where there were conditions of rapid melt and run-off into narrow channels.

Just about all of us came back to the classroom with a better understanding of how our land features formed than we would have learned in a semester of lectures and book reading.

18 posted on 02/08/2012 8:03:12 PM PST by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: LibWhacker

We can plan for the future.

1. Locate a promising candidate planet.

2. Find some dynamic leftists (e.g., Wasserman-Schultz, Harry the Hat, OBummer, etc.) and put them on a spaceship with a bunch of bleeding heart plants and,

3. Bid them adieu.


19 posted on 02/08/2012 8:16:53 PM PST by Rembrandt (.. AND the donkey you rode in on.)
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To: Vigilanteman

Bttt.


20 posted on 02/08/2012 8:30:33 PM PST by Inyo-Mono (My greatest fear is that when I'm gone my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them)
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To: LibWhacker
is what really began to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, more so than organisms in the oceans. As a result, global temperatures dropped

I'm sorry, but I believe this is pure BS. This article, along with this "theory", exists for one purpose, and that is to continue the assertion that CO2 was and is a primary driver of the climate of this planet. Just my opinion.
21 posted on 02/08/2012 8:49:06 PM PST by Pox (Good Night. I expect more respect tomorrow.)
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22 posted on 02/08/2012 8:51:59 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
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To: KevinDavis; annie laurie; Knitting A Conundrum; Viking2002; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Mmogamer; ...

Thanks LibWhacker.
 
X-Planets
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Google news searches: exoplanet · exosolar · extrasolar ·

23 posted on 02/08/2012 8:52:14 PM PST by SunkenCiv (FReep this FReepathon!)
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To: Upstate NY Guy

The Creator is the God of the Living. It’s cool that he used lifeforms in his sculpting of our world.


24 posted on 02/08/2012 9:33:29 PM PST by married21 (As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.)
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To: Vigilanteman
...Just about all of us came back to the classroom with a better understanding of how our land features formed ...

That's great. You learned at a young age that many things can be understood by observing and thinking. That's a lesson that sticks with you your whole life. Good teacher.

25 posted on 02/08/2012 10:46:25 PM PST by Upstate NY Guy
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To: married21

Absolutely right.


26 posted on 02/08/2012 10:47:34 PM PST by Upstate NY Guy
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