The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change / Edition 1

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In his latest book, Vaclav Smil tells the story of the Earth's biosphere from its origins to its near- and long-term future. He explains the workings of its parts and what is known about their interactions. With essay-like flair, he examines the biosphere's physics, chemistry, biology, geology, oceanography, energy,climatology, and ecology, as well as the changes caused by human activity. He provides both the basics of the story and surprising asides illustrating critical but often neglected aspects of biospheric complexity.Smil begins with a history of the modern idea of the biosphere, focusing on the development of the concept by Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky. He explores the probability of life elsewhere in the universe, life's evolution and metabolism, and the biosphere's extent, mass,productivity, and grand-scale organization. Smil offers fresh approaches to such well-known phenomena as solar radiation and plate tectonics and introduces lesser-known topics such as the quarter-power scaling of animal and plant metabolism across body sizes and metabolic pathways. He also examines two sets of fundamental relationships that have profoundly influenced the evolution of life and the persistence of the biosphere: symbiosis and the role of life's complexity as a determinant of biomass productivity and resilience. And he voices concern about the future course of human-caused global environmental change, which could compromise the biosphere's integrity and threaten the survival of modern civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A lovely book, in both content and execution." Mitchell K.

Hobish Science Books & Films

"A superior, comprehensive survey." Gilbert Taylor Booklist

"The breadth of discussion is remarkable... The Earth's Biosphere is unconventional." M. Cowell Annals of the Association of American Geographers

"... written by an author who does not allow facts to be obscured or overshadowed by politics." The New York Review of Books

"... written by an author who does not allow facts to be obscured or overshadowed by politics." The New York Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262692984
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Vaclav Smil is the author of more than thirty books on energy, the environment,food, and the history of technical advances, including Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature, published by the MIT Press. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.

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Table of Contents

1 Evolution of the Idea 1
2 Life in the Universe 27
3 Life's Diversity and Resilience 63
4 Energizing the Biosphere 95
5 Water and Material Flows 123
6 The Biosphere's Extent 155
7 The Biosphere's Mass and Productivity 181
8 The Biosphere's Dynamics and Organization 199
9 Civilization and the Biosphere 229
10 Epilogue 263
Appendixes 273
References 289
Scientific Name Index 329
Name Index 335
Subject Index 337
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    Too Many Mistakes With Details

    English doesn't seem to be Mr. Smil's native language. This normally wouldn't be a problem for a science book, but the writing errors, which are numerous, are such that the statements, as written, are imprecise and sometimes just plain wrong. An example of this is his predilection for not using prepositions and articles. On page 27 he writes, ". . . when the universe was about two-thirds its present size, a new planetary system began forming a galaxy we now call the Milky Way." Though Mr. Smil makes some astronomical mistakes and doesn't seem to have a deep grasp of some parts of the subject (which is disturbing enough for someone writing about the biosphere), I'm fairly sure he didn't mean that the solar system formed the galaxy, but presumably, ". . . the (visible) universe. . . planetary system began forming (in) a galaxy. . . " This could be put down as a typo if it didn't happen on almost every page, though to be fair it's usually just an annoyance rather than a complete mangling of the meaning of the sentence. Someone should have edited this book. Do real editors exist anymore? And Mr. Smil needs to take an English composition course. In science, good, precise communication is all important and the details do matter.

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