Mountains, Weathering, and Climate

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Science  17 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6070, pp. 810-811
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218342

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Earth is sustained as a habitable planet through close interactions and feedbacks among the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere (1). These interactions occur through material and energy transfer between Earth's reservoirs, referred to as global biogeochemical cycles, and result in chemical and physical changes within each reservoir. Seawater chemistry has varied through Earth's history in response to changes in global climate and tectonics (2, 3), making past records of seawater chemistry a powerful archive for reconstructing how these interactions and feedbacks changed over time. On page 818 of this issue, Misra and Froelich (4) report how the lithium isotopic composition of seawater (δ7LiSW), recorded in shells of tiny organisms living in the ocean, has changed over the past 70 million years. The results illustrate the tight interplay among the location of mountain belts, mountain erosion processes, and climate.