Living matter plays a huge role in the development of our planet.
This conclusion was reached by the Russian scientist V.I. Vernadsky, having studied the composition and evolution of the earth’s crust. He proved that the data obtained cannot be explained only by geological reasons, without taking into account the role of living matter in the geochemical migration of atoms.
Since its inception, life is constantly evolving and becoming more complex, affecting the environment, changing it. Thus, the evolution of the biosphere proceeds in parallel with the historical development of organic life.
Lifetime on Earth is measured at approximately 3.7-4.1 billion years. It is possible that primitive life forms appeared even earlier. But they left the first traces of their stay 2.5–3 billion years ago. Since that time, there have been fundamental changes in the surface of the planet and up to 5 million species of animals, plants and microorganisms have been formed. Living matter appeared on Earth, which is noticeably different from inanimate matter.
The development of life has led to the emergence of a new planetary structural envelope of the biosphere, a closely interconnected unified system of geological and biological bodies and processes of energy and matter conversion.
The biosphere is not only the sphere of the spread of life, but also the result of its activity.
Plants have taken a special place among living organisms, because they have the ability to photosynthesize. They produce almost all organic matter on the planet (there are almost 300 thousand species of plants).
Functions of living matter
VI Vernadsky gave an idea of the main biogeochemical functions of living matter.
1. The energy function is associated with the storage of energy in the process of photosynthesis, its transfer through the food chains, dissipation.
This function is one of the most important. It is based on the process of photosynthesis, which results in the accumulation of solar energy and its subsequent redistribution between the components of the biosphere.
The biosphere can be compared to a huge machine, the work of which depends on one decisive factor – energy: if it were not for it, everything would immediately stop.
In the biosphere, solar radiation plays the role of the main source of energy.
The biosphere accumulates energy coming from Space to our planet.
Living organisms not only depend on the radiant energy of the Sun, they act as a giant accumulator (storage) and a unique transformer (converter) of this energy.
It happens in the following way. Autotrophic plants (and chemotrophic microorganisms) create organic matter. All other organisms on the planet are heterotrophs. They use the created organic matter in food, which leads to complex sequences of synthesis and decomposition of organic matter. This is the basis of the biological cycle of chemical elements in the biosphere.
Therefore, living organisms are the most important biochemical force that transforms the earth’s crust.
Migration and separation of chemical elements on the earth’s surface, in soil, in sedimentary rocks, atmosphere and hydrosphere are carried out with the direct participation of living matter. Therefore, in a geological section, living matter, atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere are interrelated parts of a single, continuously developing planetary shell – the biosphere.
2. Gas function – the ability to change and maintain a certain gas composition of the environment and the atmosphere as a whole.
The predominant mass of gases on the planet is of biogenic origin.
oxygen in the atmosphere is accumulated due to photosynthesis.
3. Concentration function – the ability of organisms to concentrate scattered chemical elements in their bodies, increasing their content in comparison with the environment surrounding organisms by several orders of magnitude.
Organisms accumulate many chemical elements in their bodies.
among them, carbon is in the first place. The carbon content in coals in terms of concentration is thousands of times higher than the average for the earth’s crust. Oil is a concentrator of carbon and hydrogen, as it is of biogenic origin. Calcium ranks first among metals in terms of concentration. Whole mountain ranges are made up of animal remains with a calcareous skeleton. Silicon concentrators are diatoms, radiolarians and some sponges, iodine – kelp algae, iron and manganese – special bacteria. Vertebrates accumulate phosphorus, concentrating in their bones.
The result of concentration activity is deposits of fossil fuels, limestone, ore deposits, etc.
4. The redox function is associated with the intensification, under the influence of living matter, of both oxidation processes due to the enrichment of the medium with oxygen and reduction, primarily in those cases when organic matter decomposes with oxygen deficiency.
Reduction processes are usually accompanied by the formation and accumulation of hydrogen sulfide and methane. This, in particular, makes the deep layers of bogs practically lifeless, as well as significant bottom water layers (for example, in the Black Sea).
5. Destructive function – destruction by organisms and products of their vital activity both the remnants of organic matter and inert substances.
The main mechanism of this function is associated with the circulation of substances. The most significant role in this respect is played by the lower forms of life – fungi, bacteria (destructors, decomposers).
6. Transport function – the transfer of matter and energy as a result of the active form of movement of organisms.
Often such transfer is carried out over colossal distances, for example, during migrations and roaming of animals. The transport function is largely associated with the concentration role of communities of organisms, for example, in places of their accumulation (bird colonies and other colonial settlements).
7. The environment-forming function is largely integrative (the result of the joint action of other functions).
Ultimately, it is associated with the transformation of the physicochemical parameters of the environment. For more details about it, see the “Environment-Forming Role of Living Organisms” section.