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The field of biogeochemistry involves scientific study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere), and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space. Biogeochemistry is a systems science.
There are biogeochemistry research groups in many universities around the world. Since this is a highly inter-disciplinary field, these are situated within a wide range of host disciplines including: atmospheric sciences, ecology, environmental chemistry, geology, oceanography and soil science. These are often bracketed into larger disciplines such as earth science and environmental science.
Many researchers investigate the biogeochemical cycles of chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, as well as their stable isotopes. The cycles of trace elements such as the trace metals and the radionuclides are also studied.
Some important research fields for biogeochemistry include:
- modelling of natural systems
- soil and water acidification recovery processes
- increased eutrophication of surface waters
- carbon sequestration
- soil remediation
- climate change
Father of biogeochemistry
Vernadsky distinguished three spheres in the universe domain, where a sphere is a concept similar to the Riemman concept of a space-phase. He observed that each sphere has its own laws of evolution, and that the higher spheres modify and dominate the lowers.
The three spheres are:
- Abiotic sphere - all the non-living energy and material processes
- Biosphere - the life processes that live within the abiotic sphere
- Nöesis or Nösphere - the sphere of the cognitive process of man
Man modifies the Biosphere and Abiotic sphere. In the contemporary environment, the amount of influence man has on the other two spheres is comparable to a geological force (see Anthropocene).
Early development of biogeochemistry
The American limnologist and geochemist G. Evelyn Hutchinson is credited with outlining the broad scope and principles of this new field. More recently, the basic elements of the discipline of biogeochemistry were restated and popularized by the British scientist and writer, James Lovelock, under the label of the Gaia Hypothesis. Lovelock emphasizes a concept that life processes regulate the Earth through feedback mechanisms to keep it habitable.
- What is Biogeochemistry? - University of California California Space Institute page
- Treatise on Geochemistry Volume 8. Biogeochemistry
Example research institutes
- Biogeochemistry and environmental biocomplexity, Cornell University
- Biogeochemistry group, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, UCLA
- Biogeochemistry Lab, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
- Biogeochemistry group, Chemical engineering, Lund University
- Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry
- Complex Systems Research Center, University of New Hampshire
- Wetland Biogeochemistry Laboratory, Soil and Water Science Department, University of Florida
- Oxford University Biogeochemistry group