From The University of Aberdeen (SCT) : “Study reveals how explosion in ocean life built the first mountains” 

From The University of Aberdeen (SCT)

23 November 2021
Robert Turbyne
robert.turbyne@abdn.ac.uk
+44 (0)1224 272014

1
The Himalayas, which stacked up when rocks slid on slippery surfaces including graphite made from plankton 2 billion years ago Credit: Liudmila Kotvitckaia/Shutterstock.

An unprecedented abundance of oceanic life played a crucial role in the creation of Earth’s mountains, a landmark study led by scientists at the University of Aberdeen has revealed.

While the formation of mountains is usually associated with the collision of tectonic plates causing huge slabs of rock to be thrust skywards, the study has shown that this was triggered by an abundance of nutrients in the oceans 2 billion years ago which caused an explosion in planktonic life.

When the plankton died, they fell to the ocean floor, eventually forming graphite which played a crucial role in lubricating the breakage of rocks into slabs, enabling them to stack on top of each other to make mountains.

Research has revealed that the amount of planktonic life was unusually high in this period, thus creating the necessary conditions that were crucial to the emergence of mountains over millions of years.

Professor John Parnell, from the University’s School of Geosciences, led the research, which was funded by The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and has been published in the Nature journal Communications Earth and Environment [no link].

He commented: “Mountains are an essential part of the landscape, but big mountain chains only formed half-way through Earth’s history, about two billion years ago.

“The geological record for this period includes evidence of an abundance of organic matter in the oceans, which when they died were preserved as graphite in shale.

“While it has long been known that tectonic processes were lubricated, our research shows that it was the sheer abundance of carbon in the ocean that played a crucial role in the crustal thickening that built the Earth’s mountain ranges.

“We can see the evidence in the northwest of Scotland, where the roots of the ancient mountains and the slippery graphite that helped build them can still be found, in places like Harris, Tiree and Gairloch.”

Study co-author Dr Connor Brolly, from the University of Glasgow, said: “Graphite buried in Earth’s crust is in high demand for future green technology, for use in items such as fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries.

“It’s interesting to think that this two-billion-year-old event which was responsible for shaping our natural world now has the potential to play a key role in its preservation for future generations.”

Professor Parnell added: “Ultimately what our research has shown is that the key to the formation of mountains was life, demonstrating that the Earth and its biosphere are intimately linked in ways not previously understood.”

See the full article here .

five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition


Founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland, the The University of Aberdeen (SCT) is Scotland’s third oldest and the UK’s fifth oldest university.

William Elphinstone established King’s College to train doctors, teachers and clergy for the communities of northern Scotland, and lawyers and administrators to serve the Scottish Crown. Much of the King’s College still remains today, as do the traditions which the Bishop began.

King’s College opened with 36 staff and students, and embraced all the known branches of learning: arts, theology, canon and civil law. In 1497 it was first in the English-speaking world to create a chair of medicine. Elphinstone’s college looked outward to Europe and beyond, taking the great European universities of Paris and Bologna as its model.

Uniting the Rivals

In 1593, a second, Post-Reformation University, was founded in the heart of the New Town of Aberdeen by George Keith, fourth Earl Marischal. King’s College and Marischal College were united to form the modern University of Aberdeen in 1860. At first, arts and divinity were taught at King’s and law and medicine at Marischal. A separate science faculty – also at Marischal – was established in 1892. All faculties were opened to women in 1892, and in 1894 the first 20 matriculated female students began their studies. Four women graduated in arts in 1898, and by the following year, women made up a quarter of the faculty.

Into our Sixth Century

Throughout the 20th century Aberdeen has consistently increased student recruitment, which now stands at 14,000. In recent years picturesque and historic Old Aberdeen, home of Bishop Elphinstone’s original foundation, has again become the main campus site.

The University has also invested heavily in medical research, where time and again University staff have demonstrated their skills as world leaders in their field. The Institute of Medical Sciences, completed in 2002, was designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities for medical researchers and their students. This was followed in 2007 by the Health Sciences Building. The Foresterhill campus is now one of Europe’s major biomedical research centres. The Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare, a £20m healthcare training facility, opened in 2009.