Gaia University Webinar on Climate Change

3 05 2017


On May 16 I’ll be giving a free online seminar titled “Gaia and Climate Change” via Gaia Radio (sponsored by Gaia University). Please visit the following site to register for the seminar:

Talk on Gaia and trees for Gaia University

21 06 2016

A few weeks ago I gave a talk on “Applying Gaia theory to forest restoration”. The talk was arranged and recorded by my lovely daughter Ava Klinger, who works for Gaia University. I’m also proud to be involved with Gaia University as an external reviewer of students.

The link to talk is here. Enjoy!

AK Eklutna Clouds copy

Scientific meeting on Gaia at the Geological Society of London – November 11, 2015

5 10 2015
Carlsbad caverns. Photo by Lee Klinger.

Carlsbad caverns. Photo by Lee Klinger.

On November 11, 2015 there will be a meeting entitled “Puzzle of Earth’s Uninterrupted Habitability” to be held at the Geological Society of London (GSL). This meeting will have a strong emphasis on Gaia theory and several prominent Gaian scholars will be speaking, including Tim Lenton, David Wilkinson, Toby Tyrrell, and David Schwartzman. As a Fellow of the GSL I have been invited to speak at this meeting. Here are the title and abstract of my talk:

Biological mediation of acidity and alkalinity: Does habitability require regulation of environmental pH?

Lee Klinger, Independent Scientist, Big Sur, CA USA

Abstract – Climatic cycles such as ice ages represent large excursions in global temperatures and are associated with significant changes in atmospheric CO2, non-sea salt sulfate, and dust, as recorded in ice cores. Ice age excursions in the pH of marine waters are predicted to result from the altered concentrations of CO2 in those waters. In addition, there are a number of biologically mediated processes affecting the pH of terrestrial and marine environments.

During interglacials terrestrial ecosystems are dominated by forests and grasslands that experience frequent disturbances, especially fire, which tends to alkalinize the soils. At the onset of glaciation higher latitude fire regimes subside and the forests become podzolized, with a corresponding decrease in soil pH. Many of these areas are eventually paludified, owing primarily to the acidifying and swamping effects of mosses and lichens, which eventually dominate the expanding peatlands. Mosses and lichens are known to stimulate silicate weathering rates to levels that could significantly reduce atmospheric CO2, and the cooling effects of peatlands are thought to play a role in ice age initiation. There is evidence that the production of iron-rich organic acids by peatlands greatly enhances phytoplankton blooms in adjacent coastal areas. Rainfall chemistry from the Pacific northwest points to the occurrence of biogenic acid rain likely originating from DMS and other biogenic sulfur compounds emitted by the phytoplankton. A feedback results through the nss-sulfate deposition enhancing the growth of mosses.

As ice ages progress and glaciers grow, dust levels in the atmosphere are also seen to rise. Much of this dust is due to an increase in glacial loess. The iron content of the dust stimulates marine productivity in open ocean areas. Oceanic inputs of iron from volcanic ash and glacial outwash are also seen to increase during glacial periods.

The culmination of the glacial period is defined by feedbacks involving the expansion of glaciers into areas formerly occupied by peatlands. The high mineral content of the glacial loess, along with episodes of volcanic ash would tend to alkalinize the terrestrial ecosystems and discourage the proliferation of mosses and other acidifying organisms.

Thus, the pH excursions in the ice age cycle may be related to the biogeochemical coupling of the iron and sulfur cycles. This coupling could have its roots in the Precambrian banded iron formations (BIFs), cyclic depositions of iron-rich minerals that are likely biogenic in origin. BIFs are seen to be closely associated with snowball earth conditions.

Recent directions in the science of Gaia

15 01 2015

Congo Canopy

In June of 1988 I attended the first Chapman Conference on the Gaia Hypothesis held in San Diego, CA. There I was introduced to James Lovelock and a host of other influential scientists studying Gaia, including Lynn Margulis, Stephen Schneider, Tyler Volk, and Lee Kump. This pivotal meeting set the stage for my career in exploring the science of Gaia.

In the 1990s I attended the three Gaia in Oxford meetings, which drew scientists like Stephan Harding, Andrew Watson, Susan Canney, and Tim Lenton, all of whom have made significant contributions to the science of Gaia. Read the rest of this entry »

Gaia and Climate Change

10 01 2015


Today an article I wrote on Gaia and climate change was published in The Ecologist [link here]. The article summarizes my thoughts and concerns around the science of climate change. This is the comment and discussion thread for that article.

Life and the Planet – Part 3 (The Hockey Stick still lives in 2011)

23 05 2011

The Hockey Stick graph, presented in May 2011 by Dr Jan Zalasiewicz as evidence for unprecedented anthropogenic warming

The final talk of the meeting was by Jan Zalasiewicz titled ‘Looking back from the future at the Anthropocene’. It is clear from this talk that some geologists have already decided humans are having a dramatic effect on the earth, which reinforces efforts to give the current geological period of the earth a separate classification, the Anthropogene. I find this kind of science disturbingly self-serving. A few days after the talk after I wrote Dr. Zalasiewicz the following letter: Read the rest of this entry »

Life and the Planet – Part 2

23 05 2011

Lynn Margulis, who as Lovelock said earlier “put the flesh and bones” on Gaia, spoke on ‘Evolutionary novelty in the Proterozoic eon: Symbiogenesis in Gaia’. She described a sequence of evolutionary events involving eubacteria and thermobacteria coming together to form the first eukaryotes. This occurred not through random mutations but through symbiosis occurring over evolutionary time scales, or symbiogenesis. While Lynn is often credited with the theory of symbiogenesis she emphatically states that others preceded her in this idea, particular a Russian scientist, Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky, who in 1924 published a book “Symbiogenesis: A New Principle in Evolution”. Still, Lynn undoubtedly put the “flesh and bones” on the theory of Symbiogenesis as well.

Nicholas Butterfield spoke on ‘Multicellularity in deep time’ where he described the early fossil record of various multicellular life forms. He pointed out that by ~1 Ga ago there is evidence for clonal colonies of cyanobacteria, coenobial and filamentous green algae, and branched multicellular filaments of red algae. There is even a 850 Ma old fungus-like fossil with complex multicellular vesicles/hyphae. He states, however, that at this time there is “not a whisper of land plant fossils”. Doubting that this is a preservation issue, he left open the question of plant and animal life on land in the Proterozoic.

Speaking on ‘Neoproterozoic glaciation: Microbes at work in terrestrial oases’ Ian Fairchild acknowledged that even under the most extreme conditions of Snowball Earth life must have persisted and even flourished in places. He described stratigraphic sequences from northern Svalbard which bear units of sandstone, rhythmites, and carbonates which appear to owe their origin, in part, to microbial mats of cyanobacteria. He concludes that “extremophile” life flourished at this time and provided a geochemical record of the Cryogenian (Snowball Earth) period. Unfortunately, he offered no ideas on possible biological feedbacks on the climate. Read the rest of this entry »