The field of biogeochemistry involves scientific study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere), and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space. Biogeochemistry is a systems science.
There are biogeochemistry research groups in many universities around the world. Since this is a highly inter-disciplinary field, these are situated within a wide range of host disciplines, such as earth sciences, environmental sciences, environmental chemistry, agricultural science, soil science and oceanography.
Many researchers investigate the biogeochemical_cycles of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, as well as their stable isotopes. The cycles of trace elements such as the trace metals and the radionuclides are also studied.
Some important research fields for biogeochemistry include:
Father of biogeochemistry
Vladimir Vernadsky, a Russian scientist in the tradition of Mendeleev, is credited with founding the science of biogeochemistry.
Vernadsky distinguished three spheres in the universe domain, where a sphere is a concept similar to the Riemman concept of a space-phase. He observed that each sphere has its own laws of evolution, and that the higher spheres modify and dominate the lowers.
The three spheres are:
- 1. Abiotic sphere - all the non-living energy and material processes.
- 2. Biosphere - the life processes that live within the abiotic sphere.
- 3. Nöesis o Nösphere - the sphere of the cognitive process of man. Man modifies the Biosphere and Abiotic sphere. The amount of influence man has on the other 2 spheres is comparable to a geological force.
Early development of biogeochemistry
The American limnologist and geochemist G. Evelyn Hutchinson is credited with outlining the broad scope and principles of this new field. More recently, the basic elements of the discipline of biogeochemistry were restated and popularized by the British engineer and science writer, James Lovelock, under the label of the Gaia Hypothesis. Lovelock emphasizes a concept that life processes regulate the Earth through feedback mechanisms to keep it habitable.
Example research institutes