Gaia and the Mediterranean Sea
Kenneth J. Hsü

The Earth is a self-organizing system liking a living organism. Lovelock proposed Gaia as a metaphor to designate the check and balance ofterrestrial temperatures: the Earth is never too hot so that the ocean could boil, and the Earth is never too cold that the ocean could freeze from top to bottom. Hsü proposed that Gaia is endothermic because the life on Earth has been alternate successions of air-conditioners and heaters which evolved and deactivate or reinforce the terrestial greenhouse of carbon dioxide in atmosphere. When Earth was heating up too much, the air-conditioneers, such as anaerobic bacteria, cyanobacteria, skeletal organisms and trees, and finally calcareous plankton, went to work to bring the terrestrial temperature down. When the Earth was freezing at times of continental glaciation, heaters went to work, such as methanogenic bacteria, Ediacaran faunas, tundra and desert plants, and now Homo sapiens. Gaia has to have other organs to keep the self-organizing system vital. This paper presents a postulate that the Miocene Mediterranean Sea acted as Gaia´s kidney. The steady influx of dissolved ions and debris into the ocean causes inevitable increase of ocean´s salinity. The fossil and geochemicl records indicate that the ocean has never been too saline nor too brackish for the survival of normal marine organisms: the salinity ranged from about 32 to 36 pro mil during the last billion years. Ocean-drilling cruises to the Mediterranean discovered a very large salt formation, deposited during some 5 million years ago when the Mediterranean dried up. A study of the geochemical balance of the oceans indicates that the deposition of very large salt bodies in isolated basins such as the Miocene Mediterranean every 100 million years or so. The saline giants have the function of Gaia´s kidney. With periodical removals of the salt ions and the heavy metals from seawater, the world´s ocean have been rendered forever habitable. Gaia has to have a kidney. The desiccation of the Mediterranean is the evidence of a functioning kidney. Earlier "kidney functions" were performed during the deposition of the Cretaceous (South Atlantic), Jurassic (Gulf of Mexico), Permo-Triassic (Europe), Devonian (Canada),.Cambrian/Precambrian (Gondwana) saline giants.

Contents of this volume Sci. Mar. 65(Suppl.2) : 133-140 Back PDF
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