'The past,' declared the celebrated palaeobotanist Albert Seward, 'seizes upon us with its shadowy hand and holds us to listen to its tale.'
This book is the tale of our world's past - and future - as revealed by plants. Newly found clues in the fossil record show plants to be powerful agents of change, moulding the Earth's climate and affecting the evolutionary path of life over the immensity of geological time. They tell of how giant insects could once flourish, of an ancient ozone hole, and offer new explanations for past episodes of global warming. As we face the challenge of a changing climate today, theirs is a tale we cannot
ignore. - ;Plants have transformed our planet over the last 470 million years as they invaded the land and diversified into the astonishing variety we know today. But their influence has reached even further: they have profoundly moulded the Earth's climate and the evolutionary trajectory of life. Far from being 'silent witnesses to the passage of time', plants are dynamic components of our world, shaping the environment throughout history as much as that environment has shaped them.
In The Emerald Planet, David Beerling puts plants centre stage, revealing the crucial role they have played in driving global changes in the environment, in recording hidden facets of Earth's history, and in helping us to predict its future. His account draws together evidence from fossil plants, from experiments with their living counterparts, and from computer models of the 'Earth System', to illuminate the history of our planet and its biodiversity. This new approach
reveals how plummeting carbon dioxide levels removed a barrier to the evolution of the leaf; how forests once grew on Antarctica, how plants played a starring role in allowing spectacular giant insects to thrive in the Carboniferous; and strengthens fascinating and contentious fossil evidence for an ancient hole in
the ozone layer. Along the way, Beerling introduces a lively cast of pioneering scientists from Victorian times onwards whose discoveries provided the crucial background to these and the other puzzles.
This new understanding of our planet's past sheds a sobering light on our own climate-changing activities, and offers clues to what our climatic and ecological futures might look like. There could be no more important time to take a close look at plants, and to understand the history of the world through the stories they tell. - ;David Beerling's book is both fascinating and important. - P D Smith, The Guardian;An illuminating account of the ways "greenhouse gases, genes, and geochemistry" are linked. - P D Smith, The Guardian;My favourite non-fiction book this year...[a] highly readable history of the last half-billion years on earth - Oliver Sacks, Observer Books of the Year;David Beerling tells two stories in parallel. Both are eloquently and engagingly merged in a scholarly, yet generally accessible book...Beerling provides for the reader a fascinating history of the discovery of fossils and the inferences drawn from them...this book is a wonderful example of the nascent field of Earth systems science. - Paul Falkowski, Nature;...of great value and relevance to all interested in plants, climate and, equally, the future of our 'emerald planet'. - John MacLeod, RHS Professor of Horticulture, Garden;David Beerling's fascinating new book offers a new global perspective on the evolution of our planet...[a] vivid account...The environmental legacy of the plant kingdom upon our world can only be better appreciated after reading this book. - Louis Ronse De Craene;A beautifully detailed account...a gorgeous book. - Steven Poole, The Guardian (Review);[A] fascinating overview of green evolution. - Karl Dallas, Morning Star;Within these pages is one of the greatest stories ever told ... It is as fascinating as it is important. - New Scientist;The Emerald Planet is a serious talking-to about why plants must not be ignored. - Jonathan Silvertown, TLS