- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Biological activity is a dominant force shaping the chemical structure and evolution of the earth surface environment. The presence of an oxygenated atmosphere-hydrosphere surrounding an otherwise highly reducing solid earth is the most striking consequence of the rise of life on earth. Biological evolution and the functioning of ecosystems, in turn, are to a large degree conditioned by geophysical and geological processes. Understanding the interactions between organisms and their abiotic environment, and the resulting coupled evolution of the biosphere and geosphere is a central theme of research in biogeology. Biogeochemists contribute to this understanding by studying the transformations and transport of chemical substrates and products of biological activity in the environment.
Biogeochemical cycles provide a general framework in which geochemists organize their knowledge and interpret their data. The cycle of a given element or substance maps out the rates of transformation in, and transport fluxes between, adjoining environmental reservoirs. The temporal and spatial scales of interest dictate the selection of reservoirs and processes included in the cycle. Typically, the need for a detailed representation of biological process rates and ecosystem structure decreases as the spatial and temporal time scales considered increase.
Much progress has been made in the development of global-scale models of biogeochemical cycles. Although these models are based on fairly simple representations of the biosphere and hydrosphere, they account for the large-scale changes in the composition, redox state and biological productivity of the earth surface environment that have occurred over geological time. Since the Cambrian explosion, mineralized body parts have been secreted in large quantities by biota. Because calcium carbonate, silica and calcium phosphate are the main mineral phases constituting these hard parts, biomineralization plays an important role in the global biogeochemical cycles of carbon, calcium, silicon and phosphorus.
The chapter starts with introducing the basic concepts of …