David J. Beerling, and Robert A. Berner
The coupled evolution of land plants, CO2, and climate over the last half billion years has maintained atmospheric CO2 concentrations within finite limits, indicating the involvement of a complex network of geophysiological feedbacks. But insight into this important regulatory network is extremely limited. Here we present a systems analysis of the physiological and geochemical processes involved, identifying new positive and negative feedbacks between plants and CO2 on geological time scales. Positive feedbacks accelerated falling CO2 concentrations during the evolution and diversification of terrestrial ecosystems in the Paleozoic and enhanced rising CO2 concentrations across the Triassic–Jurassic boundary during flood basalt eruptions. The existence of positive feedbacks reveals the unexpected destabilizing influence of the biota in climate regulation that led to environmental modifications accelerating rates of terrestrial plant and animal evolution in the Paleozoic.
Source: PNAS, February 1, 2005, vol. 102 no. 5, 1302-1305.