Thank Moss for Livable Planet

Plant may have prompted major shift in ancient climate
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2012 4:11 PM CST
Thank Moss for Livable Planet
Moss may have helped cool the planet.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – About 480 million years ago, the planet was a much hotter place—and we have moss to thank for the habitable Earth we enjoy today, research suggests. Back then, 16 times as much carbon dioxide existed in the atmosphere, scientists think. Some 20 million years later, carbon dioxide levels had been cut in half as the planet cooled. It may be a chemical reaction caused by moss that led to the shift, the BBC reports.

story continues below

Researchers at two British universities studied today's mosses as they drew nutrients from rocks. The process, called weathering, results in the depletion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A similar process may have occurred eons ago. "The humble moss has created the climate which we enjoy today, from which the life we see all around us evolved," says a researcher. Scientists had previously believed that the cooling was caused by bigger plants and trees, about 100 million years later. (Read more plants stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.