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The end of life on Earth is not the end of the world: converging to an estimate of life span of the biosphere?

  • Fernando de Sousa Mello (a1) and Amâncio César Santos Friaça (a1)

Abstract

Environmental conditions have changed in the past of our planet but were not hostile enough to extinguish life. In the future, an aged Earth and a more luminous Sun may lead to harsh or even uninhabitable conditions for life. In order to estimate the life span of the biosphere we built a minimal model of the co-evolution of the geosphere, atmosphere and biosphere of our planet, taking into account temperature boundaries, CO2 partial pressure lower limits for C3 and C4 plants, and the presence of enough surface water. Our results indicate that the end of the biosphere will happen long before the Sun becomes a red giant, as the biosphere faces increasingly more difficult conditions in the future until its collapse due to high temperatures. The lower limit for CO2 partial pressure for C3 plants will be reached in 170(+ 320, − 110) Myr, followed by the C4 plants limit in 840(+ 270, − 100) Myr. The mean surface temperature will reach 373 K in 1.63(+ 0.14, − 0.05) Gyr, a point that would mark the extinction of the biosphere. Water loss due to internal geophysical processes will not be dramatic, implying almost no variation in the surface ocean mass and ocean depth for the next 1.5 billion years. Our predictions show qualitative convergence and some quantitative agreement with results found in the literature, but there is considerable scattering in the scale of hundreds of millions of years for all the criteria devised. Even considering these uncertainties, the end of the biosphere will hardly happen sooner than 1.5 Gyr.

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Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Fernando de Sousa Mello, E-mail: fernando.mello@usp.br

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The end of life on Earth is not the end of the world: converging to an estimate of life span of the biosphere?

  • Fernando de Sousa Mello (a1) and Amâncio César Santos Friaça (a1)

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