Ozone and life on the Archaean earth

Cockell, Charles and Raven, John A (2007). Ozone and life on the Archaean earth. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 365(1856) pp. 1889–1901.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2007.2049


The trace gas ozone, produced in the present-day stratosphere, acts as a screen for UV radiation between 195 and approximately 290 nm, depending on its column abundance. On the anoxic Archaean Earth, such an ozone screen would not have existed. Although the presence of other screens, such as an organic haze, might have ameliorated the UV radiation flux, even assuming the worst-case scenario (no UV screen), it can be shown that early land masses and the photic zone of the oceans could have been colonized, suggesting that: (i) high UV radiation would not have prevented the colonization of land and (ii) it is unlikely that the fossil record can be used to constrain estimates of the UV radiation environment of the early Earth (although geochemical approaches and the study of extrasolar Planetary atmospheres are likely to provide empirical constraints on the early photobiological environment).

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