All forms of life and the three environmental matrices of atmosphere, soils, and oceans form a closely integrated network that can be called the “biosphere.” Thus the biosphere is the system with four main internal, interacting components: air, water, soil, and life. Considering this system, what makes the biosphere dynamically distinct from other layers of Earth, such as lithosphere, mantle, or core, is undoubtedly the presence and influence of life.

Alternative uses of the word “biosphere” in environmental writings, both technical and popular, are (1) the zone that life inhabits or (2) simply, the sum of all of life. Regarding the first, because bacteria are found in deepest ocean sediments, and even floating in air currents, there is little to gain by trying to distinguish it from the definition used in this essay, in terms of where the biosphere begins or ends. Regarding the second, there is an adequate and …

This essay may be found on page 32 of the printed volume.

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