Encyclopedia > Biosphere

  Article Content


A biosphere is the part of a planet's terrestrial system -- including air, land and/or oceans -- in which life develops. It is a collective creation of a variety of organisms and species which form the diversity of the ecosystem.

The term was coined by the geologist Eduard Suess in 1875. The concept of biosphere is thus from geological origin and is an indication of the impact of Darwin on Earth sciences. The ecological concept of the biosphere comes from the 1920s (see Vladimir I. Vernadsky), preceding the 1935 introduction of the term ecosystem by Arthur Transley[?]. The biosphere is an important concept in astronomy, geophysics, meteorology, biogeography, evolution, geology, geochemistry, and generally speaking all life and earth sciences.

From a geophysiology point of view, the biosphere is the global ecological system integrating all living beings and their relationships, with their interaction with the elements of the lithosphere (rocks), the hydrosphere (water), and the atmosphere (air).

However, the term is often used with more restricted meanings. For example, geochemists also give define the biosphere as being the total sum of living organisms (usually named biomass or biota by biologists and ecologists). In this sense, the biosphere is one of the four components of the geochemical model, the others being the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere).

Some consider that the semantic and conceptual confusion surrounding the term of biosphere is reflected in the current debates related to biodiversity, or sustainable development. The meaning used by geochemists is one of the consequences of the specialization of modern science.

Many appear to prefer the word ecosphere[?], coined in the 1960s-'70s. Others, however, claim this word is sullied by association with the idea of ecological crisis[?].

Vernadsky defined ecology as the science of the biosphere.

Biosphere 1, Biosphere 2, Biosphere 3

When the word Biosphere is followed by a number, it is usually referring to a specific biosystem.

  • Biosphere 1 - The planet earth.
  • Biosphere 2 - A laboratory in Arizona which contains 3.15 acres of closed ecosystem.
  • Biosphere 3 - Some hypothesized future experiment.

See also

biome, cryosphere, Biosphere Reserve, noosphere, geosphere[?], eco-evolution[?], homeostasis, Advanced Life Support[?]

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Olympic medalists in athletics (men)

... Edward Cooke (USA)/ Alfred Gilbert (USA) 1912 Harry Babcock (USA) 1920 Frank Foss (USA) 1924 Lee Barnes (USA) 1928 Sabin Carr (USA) 1932 Bill Miller (USA) 1936 ...