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Natural History - Earth Alive! From Microbes to a Living Planet

208 pages, about 250 photographs and diagrams, mostly in colour, 280 x 210mm

ISBN 9781877058059, $49.95, Hardcover

Mary E. White

Available: Out of stock

Discover the natural history of Earth with this book. From the first bacterial 'Germ of Life' cells that formed in the hot, hostile and highly volcanic Earth nearly 4 billion years ago, to the present day, Life has been an unbroken continuum. Co-evolution of Life and the Planet has seen the production of the Living Biosphere and all other life forms.

Bacterial cells have been the building blocks from which higher living things, including us, are constructed. The biochemical pathways and metabolic processes that Bacteria evolved and perfected still give life to the DNA of all living matter. Bacteria became alive, not just ultra-microscopic blobs of protein molecules, because they metabolised, and it is metabolism--the power of self-replication and renewal--that distinguishes animate from inanimate matter. By definition, the thin outer layer of our planet, the Biosphere, that is 'metabolising' as a result of the Life it contains, is alive.

Microscopic living organisms modified and made a life-friendly environment on Earth's surface from the Beginning, creating and recycling the nutrients needed for Life, changing the atmosphere, weathering the rocks, modifying the waters, maintaining and re-balancing the emerging Biosphere.

For the first 2 billion years they performed this function alone; then mergers of bacterial cells created cells that had more internal specialisation of functions and evolution towards more complex microscopic life forms, and then to visible living things, had begun.

The essential role of microbes in maintaining the Living Earth, which they did alone for the first half of the time since Life began, did not cease or diminish with the coming of visible living organisms and Life-as-we-know-it. It continues today, and only recently has it been recognised to just what extent invisible Life controls the Planet. This book takes a fascinating look at natural history. In our modern world we need to acknowledge the symbiotic nature of the Biosphere, where microbes represent more than half of the living matter; the interconnections between all living things and the environment; and the dangers of not taking into account the factors required for maintaining the life-friendly balances that result from the functioning of all the Webs of Life, microscopic and visible.

Because terrestrial Life is dependent on Plants--whose photosynthesis provides the basis of all food chains--the role of soil micro-organisms is all-important. Understanding how plants and the soil biota interact is basic to achieving sustainable land use and thus our survival. When we come to see soil, atmosphere and hydrosphere all as organs of the living Biosphere and to understand the parts they play in maintaining balance and health in that super-organism, we can begin to appreciate by what laws the natural world is governed.

We humans will have to adapt, realising our unimportance in the overall scheme of things. Earth is a bacterial world and the more one explores its natural wonders, particularly those in the microcosms that modern technology is revealing to us, the more we will ultimately understand of the nature of Life itself.

Earth Alive! From Microbes to a Living Planet is a logical addition to Mary E. White's previous books. Her four-part saga The Greening of Gondwana, After the Greening, Listen! Our Land is Crying and Running Down - Water in a Changing Land told the story of the evolution of the Australian environment through time and how that natural history has determined the parameters for sustainable land and water use; Reading the Rocks outlined the evolution of animals as seen in Australian fossils. In revealing the even bigger picture than the first five books encompass the history of Life and the Biosphere. Earth Alive! From Microbes to a Living Planet gives a new perspective and reveals the significance of Life's Bacterial ancestry, and the continuing enormous importance of the invisible world of micro-organisms that still sustain the living Earth.