Has palaeontology answers for some current environmental problems?


History as an irreversible process has no role from a uniformitarian point of view in geology and palaeobiology. Contingency is another trait of history and particle palaeontology has its foundation on such principles. However, new approaches in physics and the theory of systems point out the need to consider a time arrow. Moreover, chance and necessity are interwoven in synergetics and self-organization theory and there may be some possibility of prediction. The global biota has a history resulting from a process of self-organization. A rich fossil record was produced during the Phanerozoic times and this fossil record shows us how life overcame several important crisis. A clear understanding of systems theory is required to understand these problems. On the other hand, there are species which are more prone to extinction than others. Although the physical environment plays an important role on the regulation of the global biota, the latter has an internal functioning with regulatory capability. Self-organised criticality seems a non negligible factor in extinction. The present situation of the global biota can be compared with others as illustrated by the fossil record. This can help us attack the environmental problems affecting us.

Palabras clave

Extinction, dynamical systems, chaos, self-organised criticality, extinction vulnerability, environment, Gaia hypothesis

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