Eglinton, Timothy I.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
“The term ‘holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”…. “I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose…” These quotes are from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987) by the late Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Mr. Gently is a “holistic detective,” a fictional character dwelling in a fantasy world, but in many ways he bears all the hallmarks of a biogeoscientist, as we too, seek answers to multidimensional, multifaceted—and interconnected—problems! (Adams, 1987). In addition to its broad scope, the remit of biogeoscience constitutes a fundamental scientific endeavor that is of critical importance for our understanding of the Earth system, and especially its response to natural and anthropogenic perturbations. It appears clear that we are now well into the Anthropocene (e.g., Crutzen and Steffen, 2003), and we urgently need to understand better how our world operates if we are to define the limits of human existence on this planet (Rockstrom, 2009; Running, 2012; Steffen et al., 2015), and predict, and possibly mitigate, future change. Life is a pervasive force, orchestrating or widely participating in a myriad of processes at the Earth's surface, and the field of biogeoscience, focused on the interaction between life and the physical environment (Martin and Johnson, 2012), is thus central to this issue. This is perhaps most grandly articulated in the “Gaia” hypothesis—namely that physical and biological processes are closely interwoven, forming a self-regulating system with feedbacks that keep the Earth in balance (Lovelock and Margulis, 1974). While Gaia theory remains controversial, and indeed other hypotheses argue for a more sinister role for life on this planet (e.g., Ward, 2009), the concept has come to symbolize the Earth as a highly complex, interconnected system. Biogeoscience epitomizes fields of science that witness exciting advances at the interfaces with other scientific disciplines. Indeed, biogeoscience is all about interfaces—the interface between the biotic and abiotic world (the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere), between organic and inorganic realms, and between processes that span enormous spatial and temporal scales. It is a nexus where numerous perspectives meet under a common theme of seeking to understand how biotic processes are influenced by and shape today's world, how they have operated and co-evolved in the past, and how they may respond to and influence future conditions and human pressures on this planet. Intermingled anthropogenic and natural forces add yet another layer of complexity and dynamism. Here, I highlight a few crosscutting themes that present common grand challenges. Show more
Journal / seriesFrontiers in Earth Science
Pages / Article No.
SubjectBiogeoscience; Global change; Biogeochemical cycles; Biogeochemical modeling; Observatory science; Earth surface processes; Microbial interactions; Environmental biogeochemistry
Organisational unit03868 - Eglinton, Timothy I. / Eglinton, Timothy I.
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