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Nature. 2006 Jan 26;439(7075):411-8.

The search for a topographic signature of life.

Author information

1
Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA. bill@eps.berkeley.edu

Abstract

Landscapes are shaped by the uplift, deformation and breakdown of bedrock and the erosion, transport and deposition of sediment. Life is important in all of these processes. Over short timescales, the impact of life is quite apparent: rock weathering, soil formation and erosion, slope stability and river dynamics are directly influenced by biotic processes that mediate chemical reactions, dilate soil, disrupt the ground surface and add strength with a weave of roots. Over geologic time, biotic effects are less obvious but equally important: biota affect climate, and climatic conditions dictate the mechanisms and rates of erosion that control topographic evolution. Apart from the obvious influence of humans, does the resulting landscape bear an unmistakable stamp of life? The influence of life on topography is a topic that has remained largely unexplored. Erosion laws that explicitly include biotic effects are needed to explore how intrinsically small-scale biotic processes can influence the form of entire landscapes, and to determine whether these processes create a distinctive topography.

PMID:
16437104
DOI:
10.1038/nature04452
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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