The first ecosystem

©CNRS Photothèque/Claude Carre ©CNRS Photothèque/Claude Carre
©WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund ©WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund
©WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund ©WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund

“I go now to the ends of the generous earth, on a visit to Okeanos, whence the gods have risen.” So speaks Hera, wife of Zeus, in the Iliad. Homer’s world view is not wrong. The sea is the vital crucible that permitted life on Earth to develop, around 3.8 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria are the earliest life forms. Today researchers are still making surprising discoveries as they explore the undersea world, realms to which no light penetrates and where extreme conditions prevail. They now know that the oceans play a major role in maintaining a balanced atmosphere, absorb more than 90 % of all the carbon on the planet and also store vast quantities of methane. They are a “reservoir” whose behaviour is crucially important in the context of global climate change.


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