GAIA Theory: Is There Evidence that Earth is a Self-Regulating System?

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Sulfur Cycle and  Biogenics. Image by Bantle

Could the sulfur cycle be proof of Gaia Theory? Image by Bantle

The University of Maryland’s press release for the 2012 study by H. Oduro, et al, points out that, “One of the early predictions of this hypothesis was that there should be a sulfur compound made by organisms in the oceans that was stable enough against oxidation in water to allow its transfer to the air,” the most likely candidate being dimethylsulfide.

This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, back in 2012, directly measured, for the first time, “the isotopic composition of dimethylsulfide ((CH3)2S.) and its precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate. The measurements revealed differences in the isotope ratios of these two sulfur compounds that are produced by macroalga (algae) and phytoplankton (base of food chain).”

These measurements were linked to the compounds’ metabolism by ocean organisms, and carried implications for tracking dimethylsulfide emissions from the ocean to the atmosphere (biogenic emissions).

Specifically, according to this research, the implications are that “we should expect to see variability in the sulfur isotope signatures of these compounds in the oceans under different environmental conditions and for different organisms.

Gaia Theory Compatible with Science?

Whatever the outcome, it’s interesting to note the present definition of the Gaian hypothesis in a business dictionary: “The concept, accepted more as a metaphor than a fact, that the earth is not just a clump of rock and water but a self-regulating giant cell capable of adjusting to small and big changes and catastrophes in an ‘intelligent’ and holistic manner.” Stay tuned.

Resources

Penn State University. Modeling Daisyworld. Accessed August 19, 2013.

University of Maryland. Sulfur Finding May Hold Key to Gaia Theory of Earth as Living Organism. (2012). Accessed August 19, 2013.

H. Oduro, K. L. Van Alstyne, J. Farquhar. Sulfur isotope variability of oceanic DMSP generation and its contributions to marine biogenic sulfur emissions. (2012). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Accessed August 19, 2013.

Stephen H. Schneider, et al. Scientists Debate Gaia. (2004). The MIT Press. Accessed August 19, 2013.

Ecolo. James Lovelock: Homepage. Accessed August 19, 2013.

JaredDiamond. Jared Diamond: Welcome PageAccessed August 19, 2013.

BusinessDictionary. Gaia Hypothesis. (2013). Accessed August 19, 2013.

Bucher-Norris, K. Dimethylsulfide Emission: Climate Control by Marine Algae? (2003). ProQuest. Accessed August 19, 2013.

Novak, M. and Wilensky, U. NetLogo Daisyworld model. (2006). Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Accessed August 19, 2013.

Wilensky, U. NetLogo(1999). Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Accessed August 19, 2013.

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