One of the main merits of V.I. Vernadsky’s is that for the first time he drew attention to the role of living organisms (0.01-0.02% by weight of the biosphere mass) as a powerful geological factor, and that living matter performs various biogeochemical functions in the biosphere. Thanks to this, the circulation of substances and the conversion of energy are ensured and, as a result, the integrity, constancy of the biosphere, its sustainable existence. The most important functions are energy, gas, redox, concentration.
The energy function consists in the accumulation and conversion by the plants of the energy of the Sun and its transfer through the food chains: from producers to consumers and, further, to reducers. In this case, the energy is gradually dissipated, but part of it, together with the remains of organisms, goes into a fossil state, is “preserved” in the earth’s crust, forming reserves of oil, coal, etc.
The leading role in the implementation of the gas function is played by green plants, which absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen to the atmosphere during photosynthesis. At the same time, most living organisms (including plants) use oxygen in the process of breathing, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Thus, participating in metabolic processes, living matter maintains at a certain level the gas composition of the atmosphere.
The redox function is closely related to energy. There are microorganisms that in the process of life oxidize or reduce various compounds, while receiving energy for life processes. Great is their importance for the formation of many minerals. For example, the activity of iron bacteria in the oxidation of iron has led to the formation of sedimentary rocks such as iron ores; Serobacteria, reducing sulfates, formed sulfur deposits.
The concentration function is the ability of living organisms to accumulate various chemical elements. For example, sedges and horsetails contain a lot of silicon, seaweed and sorrel – iodine and calcium. The skeletons of vertebrates contain a large amount of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium. The implementation of this function contributed to the formation of deposits of limestone, chalk, peat, coal, oil.