Biotic enhancement of weathering, atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide in the Neroproterozoic

Timothy M. Lenton, Andrew J. Watson

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Abstract

It has been suggested that biological colonization of the land surface began in the Neoproterozoic 1000–544 million years ago (Ma). We hypothesize that this colonization involved selective weathering of P from rocks, as well as an amplification of overall weathering rates. We show that two recent models, despite differences in the feedback mechanisms represented, predict that an increase in the weathering flux of P to the ocean would have caused a rise in atmospheric O2 in the Neoproterozoic. This in turn may have provided a necessary condition for the evolution of animals with hard skeletons seen in the ‘Cambrian explosion’. Increased weathering of silicate rocks would also have caused a decline in atmospheric CO2, which could have been a causal factor in the Neoproterozoic glaciations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number31
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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