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The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history Hardcover – 22 Feb 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (22 Feb. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192806025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806024
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 2.8 x 14.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

If I can find a fault with this book it is that each subsequent chapter is so engrossing that it drives the author's previous deliberations from my head... I will return to this book again and again. (Lyn Dunachie, Glasgow Natural History Society)

David Beerling's book is both fascinating and important. (P D Smith, The Guardian)

An illuminating account of the ways "greenhouse gases, genes, and geochemistry" are linked. (P D Smith, The Guardian)

My favourite non-fiction book this year...[a] highly readable history of the last half-billion years on earth (Oliver Sacks, Observer Books of the Year)

David Beerling tells two stories in parallel. Both are eloquently and engagingly merged in a scholarly, yet generally accessible book...Beerling provides for the reader a fascinating history of the discovery of fossils and the inferences drawn from them...this book is a wonderful example of the nascent field of Earth systems science. (Paul Falkowski, Nature)

...of great value and relevance to all interested in plants, climate and, equally, the future of our 'emerald planet'. (John MacLeod, RHS Professor of Horticulture, Garden)

David Beerling's fascinating new book offers a new global perspective on the evolution of our planet...[a] vivid account...The environmental legacy of the plant kingdom upon our world can only be better appreciated after reading this book. (Louis Ronse De Craene)

A beautifully detailed account...a gorgeous book. (Steven Poole, The Guardian (Review))

[A] fascinating overview of green evolution. (Karl Dallas, Morning Star)

Within these pages is one of the greatest stories ever told ... It is as fascinating as it is important. (New Scientist)

The Emerald Planet is a serious talking-to about why plants must not be ignored. (Jonathan Silvertown, TLS)

About the Author

David Beerling is Professor of Palaeoclimatology at the University of Sheffield. Before this he held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. His work on the evolution of life and the physical environment was recognized by the award of a prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize in Earth Sciences in 2001. He has published many papers in scientific journals and is co-author of Vegetation and the Terrestrial Carbon Cycle: Modelling the first 400 million years (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

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First Sentence
CHARLES Darwin (1809-82), the greatest naturalist of all, was fascinated by them, Richard Dawkins all but ignored them. Read the first page
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Bristly Badger on 28 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
There are not many science books that can be described as exciting, but this one certainly is. With a superbly clean writing style, Beerling reveals the extraordinary story of plant evolution and plants' subsequent enormous impact on life on our planet.

It's something I had never given much thought to; most of my books about the ancient earth focus on dinosaurs. But my entire perception of the Earth and its history has been changed, along with my understanding of plants.

Beerling combines botany, geo-chemistry and a host of other potentially daunting subjects in easily-digested prose. The book is made even better thanks to the equally extraordinary stories of the discoveries behind the science. We are introduced to a pantheon of remarkable people (though they were not always appreciated as such at the time) through neat little insights and unexpected anecdotes.

You will never see plants in the same light again and you don't need to be a scientist to grasp the vast majority of the concepts. It's thoroughly engrossing and if you want to know more, the book is superbly referenced, too. Very highly recommended.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 30 July 2007
Format: Hardcover
For many years, as fossil plants emerged from the rocks, it was believed that these records reflected changes in climate. Plants, it was assumed, had to adapt to variations in weather and other conditions. According to Beerling, plant life was instead the major prompter of climate change. The balance of atmospheric gases was determined by the micro-organisms floating in the seas. The ability to absorb carbon dioxide, coupled with the use of sunlight to convert that into nutrients gives plants the power to shift gas quantities. During the early days, plants exhaled oxygen. It was poison to most organisms, but those capable of using it began the drive leading to today's life. In this useful survey of all the forces forming today's world, Beerling traces how plants "changed Earth's history". Following his thesis requires the reader's close attention, since the organisation of the material is necessarily loose - not fixed chronology nor subject. The many topics to cover cannot be neatly niched.

To the author, the biggest mystery lies in the long delay between plants colonising the land and the formation of the first leaves. Leaf structure reflects how the plant is using energy. That, in turn, becomes a signal of how the atmosphere is composed at any given time. This knowledge was assembled over many years through the work of many researchers. Beerling traces the building of data resources and how the information was interpreted. Images of leaves and stems, analysis of the rock chemistry, field observations and laboratory experiments all contributed to the picture of plant evolution. Numerous surprises emerged, sometimes leading scholars to doubt the data and even their methodology. Looking at the life of plants down the ages is, as he puts it, looking "Through a glass darkly".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By I. Saunders on 18 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a superb and very up to date look at the history of plants and the role plants have played in the history of life. The writing style is engaging and easy to read, although the potted histories of scientific ideas at the start of most chapters were perhaps a little too long and sometimes not entirely to the point. This is a minor criticism, though; as the rest of the content is a unique description of some of the major changes in life on Earth since the start of the Palaeozoic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark Kelly on 22 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I opted to purchase this book as a consequence of seeing the recent "How to grow a Planet" series on TV, as the latter only (so far) comes as a DVD,rather than the usual BBC book. Having initially been disappointed by the lack of glossy photographs of plants,I have to say that what this book lacks in illustration, it more than makes up for in content, and has reshaped my view of Geography in general as a discipline of enormous importance for our own Planet. The logical layout and wealth of information in the book, as well as its excellent references to other sources of information on the many subjects it manages to cover make it a very good source of information and stimulation to read further. Allow me to recommend it, not just as a guide to anyone wanting to find out even more on the subject of plants and their influence on Earth's history and evolution, but as a source of information and interest to any general reader on the subject.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Wittering on 16 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wonderful book, and a real insight into the way plants have a greater effect than we could imagine. Just because they do not move and cannot talk, we assume they can have no influence upon the world we live in. How wrong can we be. Well worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Waite on 8 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book about plants, or more accurately a book about the planet Earth (and plants). It describes, somewhat scientifically, how plants have influenced both the climate and evolution for the last 2 billion years or so. A quite remarkable journey from beginning to end. Maybe a little overly scientific (but then, I suppose it is a science book) for some, but if you persist it generally explains things fully if not necessarily simply. What I like most about it, is that explained not only the theories but also how the theories were reached. It also, like any good scientific book, gave space to all of the competing arguments over the various theories around the evolution of plant life. very good indeed.
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