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The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History Paperback – November 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199548145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199548149
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.1 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"David Beerling is passionate about plants and their role in shaping the Earth, and this is clearly evident in his book The Emerald Planet. An interesting and enjoyable read."--The Astrobiology Society of Britain


"The result is a book that is fascinating and exciting to read."--merican Scientist


About the Author


David Beerling is Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences University of Sheffield. He has published over 100 papers in international scientific journals and is co-author of Vegetation and the Global Carbon Cycle: Modelling the First 400 Million Years.

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Customer Reviews

The summaries that begin each chapter are very well written and should be read carefully.
algo41
The author does a great job covering his basis and the book cites credible sources throughout so you know that this is simply not just an opinion piece.
trc
By browsing through the book and reading all the chapter summaries, one gets an excellent idea what the author is arguing.
G. Korthof

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For many years, as fossil plants emerged from the rocks, it was believed that these records reflected changes in climate. Plants, it was assumed, had to adapt to variations in weather and other conditions. According to Beerling, plant life was instead the major prompter of climate change. The balance of atmospheric gases was determined by the micro-organisms floating in the seas. The ability to absorb carbon dioxide, coupled with the use of sunlight to convert that into nutrients gives plants the power to shift gas quantities. During the early days, plants exhaled oxygen. It was poison to most organisms, but those capable of using it began the drive leading to today's life. In this useful survey of all the forces forming today's world, Beerling traces how plants "changed Earth's history". Following his thesis requires the reader's close attention, since the organisation of the material is necessarily loose - not fixed chronology nor subject. The many topics to cover cannot be neatly niched.

To the author, the biggest mystery lies in the long delay between plants colonising the land and the formation of the first leaves. Leaf structure reflects how the plant is using energy. That, in turn, becomes a signal of how the atmosphere is composed at any given time. This knowledge was assembled over many years through the work of many researchers. Beerling traces the building of data resources and how the information was interpreted. Images of leaves and stems, analysis of the rock chemistry, field observations and laboratory experiments all contributed to the picture of plant evolution. Numerous surprises emerged, sometimes leading scholars to doubt the data and even their methodology. Looking at the life of plants down the ages is, as he puts it, looking "Through a glass darkly".
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lara Chetkovich on May 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was one of the best books I read this year. It is superbly written, and makes paleobotany come to life with vividly historical details such as how the Victorian obsession with specimen collection handily provided a data-mine for scientists who are trying to understand how CO2 levels interact with homeobox genes for stomata. It also combines a rich story of geological events with plant evolution and provides one of the best overviews of how CO2 levels affect climate. While it is largely devoid of climate alarmism, you will think about the effect of mass extinction of plant life on our climate long after you put the book down.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By G. Korthof on October 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is a very good idea of David Beerling to start each chapter of 'The Emerald Planet' with a short and clear summary. It is immediately clear what the author is arguing in the chapter and what it is about. By browsing through the book and reading all the chapter summaries, one gets an excellent idea what the author is arguing. This is a very good service for the reader who does not have an unlimited amount of time and wants to access if the current book is the right one to invest time in. Above that, it is such a pleasant feature. Compare this book with Oliver Morton 'Eating the Sun' which is a similar subject, but lacks that kind of clarity, then I prefer to invest my time in David Beerling.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sceptique500 on August 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Until a bunch of upstart apes started messing with the climate on earth, three factors co-determined it: (a) deep processes within the earth, which set the pace of the long-term C02 cycle, but also determined continental drift (and the relationship between sea and land) as well as volcanism (see here OPPENHEIMER Eruptions that Shook the World); (b) objects from out of space; (c) plants. A paleo-climatologist, Prof. BEERLING has written lucidly of the role of plants, while not neglecting the other factors. I can only recommend this book which, as others have noted already, is very well and lucidly written..

"Paleo"-scientists are like sleuths: from few odds and ends of the past they try to reconstruct probable causes for observed climatic change. It is a technique-driven endeavor, and all based on ingenuity, and clever reasoning. To summarize the results, but also the convoluted search for causes of climate change is no easy task. Prof. BEERLING's has succeeded. He "takes no intellectual prisoners" - simply because the chains of reasoning are often long, and the conclusions often startling.

One cannot summarize all points made in the book, but here a few examples.

It took 50 million years for plants to move on land, 450 million years ago. Why it took so long is a fascinating story of limitations removed one after the other.

Once on land, plants went wild - oxygen levels rose from say 21% to 35%, allowing for giant insects. A scenario is proffered: it takes a whole chapter to transform what was once a hunch in a plausible explanation.

In the Eocene climate suddenly increased way beyond current levels.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Moore on March 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Beerling is obviously a highly regarded scientist and this well researched book is evidence of his abilities. The book is well written and quite easy to read. I'm a geologist, more or less in an adjacent field to Mr Beerling so it was with special interest I purchased this book. It does give plenty of facts about plants and climate and how these have changed over time. I would recommend this but ... and I bet you knew there was a but ... there are some things that kept annoying me throughout the reading.

I can't stress enough that this does seem to be a well research book (though with some errors - see below). But there wasn't a chapter in the book where Mr Beerling's bias for anything British didn't leak through. I'm sorry, but Scott wasn't the first to the south pole, why try and make it as if really his journey was more legitimate than Amundsen's? There are numerous examples of this but the only other one I'll cite is his assessment of Marie Stopes. It is well recognised that she was a pioneer in coal science and women reproductive education but only Mr Beerling makes a wild statement about her poetry being well regarded; Although a great person in her own right, poetry was not her strong suit. In the words of 'Meatloaf' though: two out of three ain't bad - so why the need to make all things British be spectacular? It takes away from what are the great things that have come from the small isle.

One of the most annoying aspects of the book, however, was when Mr Beerling was citing his own work. I could always tell when it was his work he was referring to as there seemed to be special praise and a long build up to why these "UK group of scientists ... " did this or did that.
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