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Despite the progress of science we still cannot safely predict the future of the global environment. Any such predictions-let alone the reliability of likely scenarios-are still questioned. And yet it is possible to make ecological forecasts and check on the proposed ideas. The main thing here is to study-proceeding from geological data on biospheric self-regulation- the mechanism of biospheric homeostasis responsible for the steady dynamics of the inner medium when key parameters are close to optimum. In fact sedimentary rock masses are the material products of the vibrant earth mantle, which is an open global dynamic system.

Articles of this rubric reflect the authors'opinion. -Ed.

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Major global changes in the Phanerozoic.

Certainly, failing to learn about the homeostatic (self-regulatory) mechanism of the biosphere we shall not be able to correctly respond to the upcoming nature and climate changes and far less so, to attempt controlling the habitat. As Academician Vladimir Vernadsky (1863 - 1945) wrote: "The biosphere cannot be understood in phenomena occurring within it", if we forget its geological history. However, geology has not addressed this problem as yet, though studying the mechanism of biospheric homeostasis would bring answers to many disputable questions: the causes of the mass extinctions of animals, great glaciations, periodicity of sediment and ore accumulation, and the like. The biosphere, which includes living matter, the hydrosphere, troposphere and the upper part of the lithosphere, has been habitable for about 4 billion years now, though it has changed a lot. As any self-organizing system, it is characterized by homeostasis and to sustain it the biosphere has to make self-excited (self-sustained) oscillations that are recorded in output products, the sedimentary rocks and minerals. Our research into the periodicity of geological processes has allowed to elucidate their scale and nature.

The causal conditions of self-sustained oscillation phases and their fractality are a major characteristic. Any phase triggers the next one, and all self-excited oscillations-irrespective of their scale-are similar to one another. Thus it is important to find similar structures (fractals) in sedimentary masses that could reflect global changes.

In fact, such structures have long since been known to us. These are carbonaceous deposits, carbonates and salts regularly replacing one another. For example, in Eastern Siberia the thick Vendian* and early Cambrian (600 - 510 mln years ago) were carbonaceous layers, replaced with carbonate rocks (limestones and dolomites), and the latter-with huge deposits of salts. Carboniferous deposits of the early (200 - 160 mln years ago) and middle Jurassic in Ciscaucasia and Central Asia are covered with thick strata of late (160 - 145 mln years ago) Jurassic carbonate rocks overlaid by salts. The age of these fractals is about 30 mln years. We could cite many similar episodes which reflect global changes regardless of locality. All of them are known as biospheric rhythms which consist of two phases: carbonaceous (eutrophic) and calcium (oligotrophic).

The former (carbonaceous) occurs suddenly and passes into the latter (calcium) in graduated fashion. The eutrophic (carbonaceous) phase is a sharp change of scenery: biota starts to dump "extra" carbon, the climate turns warmer and damper, the deposition rates go down, crusts of weathering keep growing, ablation of rock fragments from continents slows down, and the washout of dissolved salts into the ocean intensifies. Carbonaceous phases are 3 - 5 times shorter than the calcium ones.

It should be noted that similar phases-protein and calcium ones-also occur in the functioning of live cells, which shows the unity of living matter and of the biosphere. Excessive alimentation produces fat deposits, while deficient alimentation-those of calcium. Increased alimentation (carbonic acid gas for land and nitrogen and phosphorus for photosynthesis ocean areas) gives rise to eutrophy. Accumulation of carbonaceous masses is increased, and it is important to note that on land (coals) and in the ocean (black slates) this process is simultaneous. When nutrient alimentation is reduced (transition to oligotrophy), the formation of carbonate deposits-up to salt deposition in arid conditions-is

See: B. Sokolov. "Peering into the Dim Past", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2005. -Ed.

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intensified. Biospheric rhythms-ranging from the longest (about 90 million years) down to the shortest-are structured in self-similitude.

Nutrients are fed to the zone of photosynthesis from two sources. These are rock weathering, magnetism, volcanism and metamorphism associated with tectonic activity on continents and in oceans. These are also nutrient-rich deep and middle-level oceanic waters. In the first case external effects on the biosphere are associated with it non-linearly. The second source is within the system and only this source can be linearly dependent on carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms.

Diagram of ocean water circulation stratified according to temperature (A) and salinity (B).

Whereas on land bioproductivity is limited by the carbonic acid gas content in the atmosphere, in the ocean it is determined by the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in the zone of photosynthesis. As oceanologists see it, the dynamics of waters is primary for the formation of areas of higher biological productivity, i.e. it causes such productivity. It is logical to assume that the cyclical increase in currents bringing nutrients to top layers of the ocean-and simultaneously, C02 to the atmosphere-led to the increase of bioproductivity both on land and in the ocean. This view is supported by the duality of the interoceanic conveyor*. In this case the carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms are related to the intensifued work of this conveyor, while the succeeding calcium phases, to its relaxation. The carbonaceous phases are a function of the periodic formation of immiscible masses of ocean waters and their fast destruction responsible for temporary activization of sea currents.

Such isolated masses of waters-according to paleo-oceanologists - had been in existence for several million years each. Recent, shorter formations similar to the Great Saliferous Anomaly in the North Atlantic are also known. Its formation in 1959 - 1981 is connected with the slowdown of the global conveyor in the middle latitudes and the slackening of the Gulf Stream, whereas in the early 1950s and in the late 1980s (prior to and after the anomaly) in the middle latitudes there was an intensive feedback of heat to the atmosphere accompanied by the intensification of the Gulf Stream. Reactivation of the conveyor occurred almost twice as fast as its slackening. Since the time of carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms is 3 - 5 times shorter than that of the calcium phases, abnormal masses of ocean waters should be formed slowly and collapse quickly (this is the general principle). It is characteristic of the systems capable of accumulating and dumping energy by the law of flicker noises (i.e. capacity of processes is inversely proportional to their frequency). Such systems can be highly sensitive to mild exposure. Some of their elements are in the prethreshold condition, nearly close to the limit of stability, and even a weak impact is sufficient for a release of accumulated energy. Such an impact causes a simultaneous release of energy in all the prethreshold elements of the system, which in turn also stimulates a release of energy in elements remote from the threshold of stability-the effect snowballs. The action of external, rather strong and frequent impacts causes energy release far from the stability threshold, and its cumulative "jump" is out. Such systems are paradoxical indeed: they produce strong responses to both rare and weak impacts, and mild responses-to strong and frequent impacts. That is why almost all carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms may begin with external impacts, but not all of them touch off global changes. Indeed, discovered recently are iridium anomalies-the

See: A. Lisitsyn, A. Sagalevich, "Breakthrough Discovery in the Ocean*', Science in Russia, No. 1, 2001. -Ed.

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traces of large space bodies hitting the Earth-which are not connected with noticeable global changes.*


The Phanerozoic (recent 600 million years) is characterized by four major glacial periods: at the end of the Vendian and at the beginning of the Cambrian, at the end of the Ordovician-the Silurian (500 - 415 mln years ago), in the middle of the Carbonic ferrous-the Permian (340 - 250 mln years ago) and the recent glaciation. Each of them lasted for about 90 mln years. The periods between the glacial ages were characterized by a warmer and glaciation-free climate; each took about same time. And the greatest periodicity of sedimentary rocks accumulation is twice as short as the Bertrand Cycle-the period of global tectonic effects on the biosphere equal to about 180 mln years.

Climatic zonality of Pangea during the peak of the early Permian glaciation (according to N. M. Chumakov, 2004)

The six identified periods in the Phanerozoic global deposition are structures similarly to one another. All of them begin under conditions most favorable for the accumulation of carbonaceous deposits, and end in thick masses of carbonates. Carbonaceous deposits are associated with oil, gas and coals, and also with deposits of phosphorites, non-ferrous, rare and precious metals. Since major carbonaceous periods occurred at close time intervals, they formed ensembles of highly productive periods. In the Phanerozoic the most productive periods were separated by "peaks" of accumulation of carbonates and glaciations. Carbonaceous periods occurred twice as frequently as glaciations, and they materialized the most dramatic changes in the flora and fauna. The larger the glaciations, the longer the preceding and highly productive periods (say, the rather short late Ordovician-Silurian glaciation of about 460 - 420 mln years ago was preceded by a less significant accumulation of sedimentary minerals).

The change of glacial and glaciation-free periods seems quite paradoxical. The onset of glaciations in the Ordovician (488 - 444 mln years ago), at the end of the early Carboniferous period (345 mln years ago) and at the end of the Cretaceous (65.5 mln years ago) occurred against the background of the high ocean level under the predominantly warm humid climate when the albedo of the Earth was minimal. The degradation of the Middle-Carboniferous-Permian (Godwana) glaciation covering the south of Pangea - a huge continent that took in all parts of the world-occurred without any noticeable displacement of this supercontinent. It was preceded by a wide expansion of the ice sheet, sharp aridization (dryness) of the climate in the absence of humid tropics and at the low ocean level. Naturally, due to the increase in the land area, desert and ice sheet encroachments, at the end of the Permian (250 mln years ago) the albedo value was maximal, and the amount of solar radiation minimal.

This paradox is indicative of the non-linearity of the phenomenon and its self-excited oscillations. It looks odd, but the transition from a warm to cold biosphere and vice versa occurred out of keeping with the climatic system. Even though used in all climatic models, this system is unsuitable for explaining the long-period self-sustained oscillatory processes. Therefore external effects on the system should be counted in, too. To explain the occurrence of glacial ages we need to take account of such factors as tectonic activity, continental shifts, volcanicity, and so forth. Quaternary glaciations are routinely explained by the changed inclination of the ecliptic and eccentricity of the terrestrial orbit (according to the theory suggested in 1914 by the Yugoslav astronomer Milutin Milankovic).

See: A. Litvak et al., "Cosmic Wanderers", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2003. Ed.

стр. 38

The climatic system is constructed on the basis of climate defined as a statistical array of long-term weather regimes only with respect to the upper part of the biosphere. If we consider climate as a thermodynamic condition of the entire biosphere, a model explaining the causality of global changes will be feasible.


The total number of published hypotheses explaining the superlong climatic fluctuations is close to a hundred. The irrelevancy of the most popular ones (change of the macrogeographical situation, tectonic activity and orogenesis) was shown in 2004 by Dr. Nikolai Chumakov of the Geological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who suggested that volcanism was the principal cause of climatic changes in the past. However, according to the model proposed by us volcanism is not the cause but the consequence of continental glaciations, their formation and destruction.

Climatic zonality of Pangea at the very start of the glaciation-free period in the early Triassic (according to N. M. Chumakov, 2004).

Naturally, the temperatures of deep and middle-level ocean waters in glacial ages were as low (-0.5 to +5°C) as today, and in glaciation-free periods, according to many paleontological reports, was as high (7 - 11 up to 20°C) as in the Cretaceous. Hence during the Phanerozoic the cold ocean was several times replaced with the warm ocean and vice versa; there were six transition periods of this kind. During these periods sedimentary rocks, rich in combustible and other minerals, were deposited. Associated with them were the mass extinction of animals and plants including the most significant ones-at the turn of the early and middle Ordovician (470 mln years ago), the Ordovician and the Silurian (418 mln years ago), the Permian and the Triassic, the Triassic and the Jurassic (200 mln years ago), the Cretaceous and the Paleogene. They could be caused by a sharp changeover in most of the regions-in the ocean and on land-from oligotrophic to eutrophic conditions due to the onset of carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms.

Temperature-related stratification of waters during ice-sheet glaciations, when the entire ocean was cold, slowed down sea currents and led to sharp climatic zonality. In low latitudes the increased level of evaporation produced warm, more salty and dense water masses which in ocean depths traveled to high latitudes destroying the ice-sheet and stratifying waters by salinity Deep waters moved from the equator to the poles, and surface waters-from the poles to the equator. After distribution of water masses according to salinity there came a phase of warm ocean stabilization. Thus more dense waters in low latitudes ceased to be formed, for low latitudinal temperature differentials gave rise to a damp tropical climate. Under the conditions of steady water stratification according to salinity oceanic currents became weaker. Heat ceased to travels to high latitudes, where deep layers of cold waters were formed again. Moving from the poles to the equator they got into ocean depths and contributed to temperature-related water mass distribution.

As we see, because of the high climate zonality the temperature-related stratification of waters in the cold Permian ocean could pass only to distribution according to salinity, which is characteristic of the warm mesozoic ocean, and at the end of the Mesozoic under the conditions of weak climatic zonality ocean waters could only be stratified according to by temperature, which is characteristic of the present cold ocean. Thus, the alternation of heat and cold in a self-excited oscillatory mode.

Besides, the recurrent formation and destruction of continental glaciations was accompanied by changes of the rotation rate of the Earth as reflected in the activization of volcanism and tectonics.

стр. 39

Discoveries made by micropaleontologists may serve as direct evidence for the relevance of the proposed model. Indeed, Dr. Oleg Korchagin, proceeding from foraminifer studies in 2004, established a special pattern of ocean water circulation: deep under, the water moved from the equator to the poles, but on the ocean surface it traveled in the opposite direction*. He also noted the initial movement of deep waters to the equator, and of surface waters from the equator at the end of the Campanian-the beginning of the Maastricht (upper Cretaceous-70 mln years ago) when the present-day temperature-related changes had begun. In 1995 Dr. Ivan Basov of our institute established the fact of the changed distribution pattern for water masses in the Pacific in the beginning of the Cenozoic: the transition from the salinity to the temperature-related distribution.

Climatic zonality of the Earth prior to the beginning (or in the beginning) of the recent glacial period (according to M. A. Akhmetev, 2004).

The extinction of animals and plants at the turn of the Cretaceous and Paleogene was rather selective. In 2004 Dr. Mikhail Akhmetev of the Geological institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences found that in most cases this had begun in the Maastricht, and ground mollusks, fresh-water fishes and ground flora suffered least. The greatest changes of biota occurred in the ocean, and if the catastrophe had been caused by a fall of a space body, or by activization of volcanism and violent volcanic eruptions, inland life would have suffered most. These phenomena could have triggered carbonaceous phases of biospheric rhythms which developed precipitously, in an avalanche-like fashion (by the law of flicker noises).

In the recent four million years the biosphere has developed a definite rhythm of glaciations and interglacials recurring every 90 - 130 thous. years. Most likely, the mechanism of their formation was essentially the same, as it was with long periods of glacial and glaciation-free climates. For 80 - 100 thous. years glaciations produced cold water masses; eventually they broke through into ocean depths and activated the interoceanic conveyor. Its abrupt intensification caused rapid degradation of part of the ice sheet, and a relatively short-term (15 - 20 thous. years) warming and humidification of the climate. The slackening of the interoceanic conveyor ushered in a new glaciation that reached a maximum just before the next warming spell. We are living at the end of this warming period which has been on for 12 thous. years now.

According to our model, at present the temperature-related stratification of ocean waters is not yet complete, and our planet is in for a glacial maximum.

Since any system develops according to the maximum parsimony principle, the biosphere uses the universal cosmic "schedule" for the hierarchical coordination of its rhythms. Therefore, the periods of self-excited oscillations of the biosphere coincide or are close to those involving changes of the astronomical parameters on the Earth, the solar system and the Galaxy.

Thus, the self-excited oscillatory mechanism of biospheric homeostasis generates biospheric rhythms and evolves as the cause of great glaciations, mass extinctions of the flora and fauna, periodicity of precipitation and ore deposition, and evolution of the very system.

Illustrations supplied by the author.

* Foraminifers-microorganisms whose calcareous tests (shells) make up a significant part of oceanic silts. -Ed.



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