Earth and Life through time: from its origin to the Anthropocene
Biogeochemistry is an interdisciplinary systems science whose application area includes all five geochemical spheres: biosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere.
E. Gorham described biogeochemistry as follows ...
“Biogeochemistry deals with control of the concentrations and cycling of elements in and above the earth’s crust by the synthesis, death and decomposition of organisms. The term was coined by Vernadsky (1926) (...). Biogeochemistry represents a very gradual coalescence and eventual synthesis of three diverse disciplines into a recognized branch of science. In it the most fundamental aspects of knowledge of the planet Earth are being studied by scientists at the same time, and in the same way, that they seek a better understanding of extremely important practical problems. Most notable among such problems are those caused by human manipulation of biogeochemical cycles on nature’s own scale. The challenge that faces humanity is nothing less than the maintenance of the balance of nature represented by those cycles, which will require a greatly improved understanding of planetary biogeochemistry.” Gorham, E., 1991. Biogeochemistry: its origins and development. Biogeochemistry
Hence, biogeochemistry is accompanied with the Anthropocene which defines mankind as a factor that influences unrecoverable the geological, biological and atmospheric processes on Earth. Consequentlly, mankind becomes responsible for the further development of our planet. The term anthropocene was coined by atmospheric chemist and nobel prize winner Paul Crutzen.
A powerful tool to address biogeochemical questions are stable isotope ratios which can be used as tracers for (bio)chemical reactions and are able to record to environmental as well as climatic fluctuations. In our research group we focus on stable hydrogen and carbon isotope ratios (expressed as δ2H and δ13C values) in several fields of biogeochemistry and related disciplines (see figure below).