Long Term Co-evolution of Life & the Planet
The main objective of this research programme is to support interdisciplinary research into periods of major physical or biological change in the geological record and their relationship to carbon and oxygen cycles. The aim is to improve current understanding of the nature, rates, controls and feedbacks that provide the fundamental drivers and controls of these changes within the Earth system. The programme will include training via project studentships and short courses and will support integrated public engagement activities aimed at the next generation of scientists.
Throughout Earth's history there have been major reorganisations of the whole Earth system. It is known that the drivers of the changes, and the controls on the intervening periods of relative stability, involve complex feedbacks on a variety of time and space scales between global tectonic cycles, biogeochemistry and evolution which together regulate atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions. It has become possible to investigate the long term controls on the chemical composition of the atmosphere and ocean and to understand how these relate to evolution and biodiversity.
At certain times in the relatively recent geological past, global scale disturbances of the carbon and oxygen system have taken place resulting in, for example, ocean anoxic events. In deeper geological time, the Earth moved from an anaerobic microbial to an oxic system, and became the world known today with the evolution of more complex life. This programme aims to improve the understanding of the nature, rates, controls and feedbacks that provide the fundamental drivers and controls of these changes within the Earth System via a group of large interdisciplinary research projects.
The programme will improve current knowledge of the interaction between the evolution of life and the earth, which represents one of the three high level challenges within NERC's Earth system science theme and is also relevant to many other challenges within the ESS theme. Recent developments of conceptual, analytical and modelling tools make this programme timely.
While each project will tackle a different issue, there are clearly potential benefits from close collaborations between different research projects, so annual programme meetings will be arranged to foster collaboration and all contributors will be expected to participate.
Project studentships will form an important component of this initiative. The opportunities for graduate students to both broaden and deepen their skills will be exploited by a programme of short courses provided by expert groups within the projects, as well as via existing arrangements such as the Earth system science summer school.