The Natural History of the Earth

Ferocious debates have always characterized the interpretation of Earth history. After a generally quieter period during the first half of the twentieth century, controversies re-ignited in many branches of the Earth and life sciences in the 1960s. Plate and plume tectonics, cosmic catastrophism, giant tsunamis, the origin of ice ages, punctuated equilibrium, the Gaia hypothesis, and many more have all led to intense arguments. The Natural History of the Earth probes selected discussions within biology, climatology, geology, and geomor-phology, and explores a selection of debates about Earth and life history, considering their origins and their present state-of-play.

The Natural History of the Earth firstly outlines the arguments, placing them in an historical context and indicating their significance, while subsequent chapters deal with specific debates. In the geosphere section, the topics discussed are geological processes (plate tectonics, plume tectonics, and expansion and contraction tectonics), the bombardment hypothesis (including cosmic missiles and periodic bombardment), frigid climates (the nature and origin of the last ice age, snowball and slushball climates, hothouse and icehouse climates), and cataclysmic floods (oceanic overspill, lake outbursts, mega-tsunamis, impact superfloods). In the section concerning the biosphere, the topics covered are evolutionary patterns (punctuated equilibrium versus gradualism, microevolution versus macroevolu-tion, micromutation versus macromutation, and evolutionary hierarchy versus evolutionary continuum), mass extinctions (what they are, what causes them, their periodic nature), patterns in life's history (directionality, stasis and change, diversity cycles), and lifeenvironment connections (the Gaia hypothesis).

Using a broad selection of classic and current sources, The Natural History of the Earth brings together debates from a wide range of Earth and life sciences. written in a clear and approachable style, it will interest Earth and life scientists, physical geographers, and any informed person fascinated by long-term Earth history. This accessible volume is illustrated throughout with over 50 informative diagrams, photographs, and tables.

Richard John Huggett is a Reader in Physical Geography in the University of Manchester. His publications include Topography and the Environment (with Joanne E. Cheesman), Fundamentals of Geomorphology (Routledge, 2003), Fundamentals of Biogeography, 2nd edn (Routledge, 2004), and Physical Geography: A Human Perspective (with Sarah Lindley, Helen Gavin, and Kate Richardson).

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