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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really exciting read
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...
Published on 28 May 2007 by Bristly Badger

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Emerald Planet
Not quite fair of me to review this book as I'm only half way through reading it.
So far I'd describe it as a "climatology whodunnit". It starts to get interesting after the first chapter, which frankly I found to be quite hard going. Beerling seems to like long sentences, which can be a problem for me as I have to keep going back to remind myself how each...
Published 11 months ago by R. Rowland


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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really exciting read, 28 May 2007
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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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arranging carts and horses, 30 July 2007
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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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". Pervading his presentation is what the implications are for what is occurring in today's atmosphere - on which our life and those of our children, depends.

Beerling deems investigations into ancient atmospheres a form of "breathalyser", such as the police apply to suspected impaired drivers. In this case, however, it's not alcohol fumes that are measured, but carbon dioxide. Other gases are also sought, but they don't often leave sufficient clues. The information must be derived indirectly. Again, it's the plant's leaves that are used as the pointers to how ancient atmospheres fluctuated. Underlying the variations is the mighty force of plate tectonics. The shifting of land masses and changes in surface configuration leads plants to shift their survival strategies. Acting far more rapidly than creeping continents, the ability of plants to accelerate or impair rock weathering shifts the presence of gas quantities. Carbon dioxide quantities have varied markedly, leading to most of the world's history being warm times. Only recently - in geologic terms - has the planet experienced a cool era, which led to the "ice age" that scoured the Northern Hemisphere with massive glaciers.

As with so much in science, the revelation that plants drive climate instead of passively responding to it has produced at least as many questions as answers. There are anomalous circumstances that must be unravelled. The knowledge gained has led to the formation of "Earth system analysis" techniques using various forms of computer modelling. Many details, however, remain to be worked out. Atmostpheric studies are particularly impaired by lack of knowledge of cloud formation and distribution. Carbon itself, both as a greenhouse gas and as a component of plant growth, remains enigmatic. Beerling traces the selectivity of plants in choosing which carbon isotope will be utilised. That choice has impact on which plants will become dominant in a given area, which also has implications for the animal life living from them. There are no simple nor ready answers to what plants have meant in tracing life's development. Yet, as he emphasises frequently, these are questions that must be addressed further, and that, soon. Understanding our atmosphere is essential to our future. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the other half live, 18 May 2009
By 
I. Saunders (Reading, Berks United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jewel of a Book, 16 April 2009
By 
Shirley Wittering "Greensleeves" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, stimulating, fascinating!, 22 April 2012
By 
Mark Kelly "Performance!" (Notts, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a surprisingly board and interesting book, 8 Dec 2012
By 
Matthew Waite - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 14 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
A very interesting take on the role of plants in the evolution of our climate, geology and life on earth. It is well written and reasonably accessible to the lay reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first class read and a refreshing look at the Earth's history, 10 April 2013
By 
Steve Law "Sven" (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
Any book about earth history has to be taken with an open mind. This book is a worthy read because it takes a refreshing view of the controlling influence that plants have had over time. I was attracted to the book by an article many years ago in a geological magazine which looked at the role of plants in the Devonian period and their potential influence on extinctions at the end of that period and the changes that plants brought about in the earth's atmosphere and biosphere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 18 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
This is the book on which the BBC series 'How to grow a planet' was based. The book is brilliant, there are very few book available for the lay person on the history of plants from pre-historic times. The book describes theories from the past on the evolution of plants and also present day theories which are being researched today. Lots of interesting information especially in climate change. Some parts of the book are a little difficult to comprehend for the non-scientist.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating science, 17 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history (Paperback)
This book is a fascinating study of the role of plants in the history of life on earth. It is not a comprehensive account of plant evolution nor will it really appeal to beginners, but David Beerling has done a superb job of explaining the links between plants, animals and the whole fabric of the earth. He picks on a number of important events in geological history and gives detailed accounts of how science has gradually unravelled the mysteries of the processes involved, bringing us up to date with the very latest research and thinking. I found it fascinating to learn how plants (and all life forms) have such an impact on the structure of the rocks beneath our feet and the atmosphere around us.
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The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history
The Emerald Planet: How plants changed Earth's history by David Beerling (Paperback - 25 Sep 2008)
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