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The Atmosphere

What is the History of the Atmosphere?

We have seen how the ancient atmosphere and oceans
may have formed and how life may have started on the Earth.

When did Photosynthesis and the First Green Plants Appear?

The first green plants appeared on the Earth about 2 billion
years ago (in the sea) and about 0·5 billion years ago on land.

Green plants use photosynthesis to convert
carbon dioxide from the air into glucose (sugar) plus oxygen.

water carbon dioxide   arrow     glucose       +   oxygen.
6H2O(l)  +     6CO2(g)        arrow     C6H12O6(aq)  +    6O2(g)

The green catalyst used by the plant is chlorophyll,
this is what makes plants look green.
The energy for the reaction is provided by sunlight.

Oxygen is given off by the reaction,
and many of the earlier bacteria on the planet were killed by it.
Oxygen was a pollutant gas to some life at that time!

Over millions of years, photosynthesis reduced the amount
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and replaced it with oxygen.
Carbon dioxide became increasingly contained in fossil fuels
and carbonate rocks (chalk and limestone - see the carbon cycle).

Continued on the next page.

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