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OxygenA Four Billion Year History$
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Donald Eugene Canfield

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691145020

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691145020.001.0001

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The Great Oxidation

The Great Oxidation

(p.98) Chapter 8 The Great Oxidation

Donald Eugene Canfield

Princeton University Press

This chapter deals with the “great oxidation event” (GOE), which represents a quantum shift in the oxygen content of the atmosphere. It suggests that the GOE represents the evolution of cyanobacteria. According to the geologic record, the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere increased dramatically around 2.3 billion years ago. Since cyanobacteria likely evolved much earlier, it does not appear that a well-oxygenated atmosphere is a necessary or immediate consequence of the activities of oxygen-producing organisms. Atmospheric chemistry is a slave to the dynamics of the mantle, as the interior and exterior of the planet are connected in a profound way. Indeed, it took half of Earth's history for the mantle to quiet to point where oxygen could accumulate. This, however, represented a watershed, a tipping point if you will, where the chemistry of Earth's surface was forever altered.

Keywords:   atmospheric oxygen, Earth, great oxidation event, cyanobacteria, mantle

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