What is the biosphere? – World Atlas

Also called the “Ecosphere” The biosphere is a relatively thin area of ​​the Earth’s surface that supports life. Word “biosphere” was originally used in 1875 by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess to refer to the region of Earth where life can be found. The biosphere encompasses everything from the deepest tree roots to the dark depths of the ocean, lush rainforests and high mountain peaks. Therefore, whether life is on the surface of the Earth, high in the air, or underground, it is all part of the larger biosphere. In this way, the biosphere merges with the other three spheres of the Earth, namely the atmosphere, the lithosphere and the hydrosphere. Thus, the biosphere can alternatively be defined as the total of all Earth’s ecosystems.

Why is it called biosphere?

The Four Spheres Of The Earth.

Greek words “bios” for life and “sphaira” because the shape of the Earth are the origin of the word “biosphere.” More than a century ago, the Austrian geologist Eduard Suess used the term “biosphere” for the first time in his four-volume work Das Antlitz der Erde, Where “The Face of the Earth.” The only explanation Suess could offer at this time for the existence of marine fossils in the mountains was that the waters of the Tethys Ocean had flooded the entire Earth, not that the continents had actually separated and transformed. Back then, no one understood plate tectonics. Eduard Suess coined the term “biosphere” because he believed it was crucial to try to understand life fully rather than focusing on specific organisms.

Components of the biosphere

The biosphere comprises three components: the lithosphere, the atmosphere and the hydrosphere. However, not all of them harbor or are inhabited by living organisms. Only these parts are considered a component of the biosphere where life is found and maintained.


Dendrobaena is a burrowing annelid worm that lives in the soil
Dendrobaena is a burrowing annelid worm that lives in the ground.

The lithosphere is called the terrestrial component of the biosphere. The lithosphere includes solid landmasses like continents and islands. The lower mantle and the core of the Earth are the only parts that do not support life and therefore are not part of the biosphere. All other parts support life, from microorganisms and large trees to larger animals, by providing them with appropriate shelter and food.


A cormorant bird taking flight above the water
A cormorant bird taking flight above the water.

The gaseous cover above the Earth is called the atmosphere. It contains a variety of gases including carbon dioxide, oxygen, and others to support the continued existence of living things like plants, animals, and humans. However, the upper part of the atmosphere has a low oxygen content. In addition to providing gases for respiration, the atmosphere, which is a component of the biosphere, has a specific function of protecting living beings from harmful UV rays from the sun.


Underwater coral reef landscape with colorful fish and marine life
Underwater coral reef landscape with colorful fish and marine life.

All water on Earth is part of the hydrosphere. The ocean, lakes, rivers, snow, glaciers, water below the Earth’s surface, and even water vapor found in the sky are examples of the different types of water found on Earth. Many plants and animals can be found in the hydrosphere, which occupies about 70% of the Earth’s surface. The hydrosphere, the support of life, also plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature.

What affects the biosphere?

The biosphere is constantly changing and strongly influenced by living and non-living things. It is believed that several factors like Earth’s tilt, natural disasters, climate change, etc. affect the biosphere.

Tilt of the Earth

Earth’s tilt has a significant impact on the biosphere. Earth’s tilt contributes to seasonal climate variations, making one side of the Earth temporarily cooler while the other half stays warmer for some time. Seasons are one of the most important physical factors in determining what type of species will thrive in a specific area.

Natural disasters

Aerial view of lava flows on the active volcano
Aerial view of lava flows on the active volcano.

The biosphere can also be strongly affected by natural disasters. Volcanic eruptions, for example, can alter life on earth by ejecting gases, lava, rocks and ash that devastate ecosystems. At the bottom of the ocean, volcanic eruptions can cause nearby water temperatures to rise. The biosphere is also damaged by other natural calamities, including earthquakes and floods.

In addition to the above factors, other factors that affect the biosphere include climate change, variations in temperature, humidity, precipitation, and erosion, which alter the environment around living things.

Importance of the biosphere

Illustration of biological organization hierarchy
Illustration of biological organization hierarchy.

The biosphere provides the ecosystem necessary for survival and functions as the Earth’s life support system. Therefore, any slight change in the biosphere can have a significant impact on the life of living organisms.

Promotes life on earth

The biosphere is the true biological layer that covers the surface of the planet. Rivers, seas, lakes, oceans, and even the lowest point of the atmosphere are all included, along with the thinnest layer of the earth’s crust. The harmony between these components allows life, including human life, to exist on Earth.

Product of organic matter

Almost all of the biochemical processes that result in the formation of organic matter throughout the carbon cycle, involving both terrestrial and oceanic substrates, are carried out by oxygenic photosynthesis, which occurs in the biosphere. Additionally, the biosphere also helps recycle nutrients essential to sustaining life on the planet.

Provides food

All living things need food to survive. The biosphere plays a vital role in providing food to different living organisms.

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