How Earth’s Crust is Essential For Human Life

Research shows that plate tectonics play a critical role in nourishing life on Earth.

Vehicals avoid cracks on Route 3 in Leogane, where the epicenter of the earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, 2010. (Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images)

New research increasingly shows that the giant shifts in the Earth’s surface play a vital role to life on the planet. That our planet has a moving, morphing outer crust may be why Earth is so vibrant, and why no other plant can match its abundance of species.

“Understanding plate tectonics is a major key to understanding our own planet and its habitability. How do you make a habitable planet, and then sustain life on it for billions of years?” said Katharine Huntington, a geologist at the University of Washington, according to Quanta Magazine. “Plate tectonics is what modulates our atmosphere at the longest timescales. You need that to be able to keep water here, to keep it warm, to keep life chugging along.”

Geologists and astrobiologists have linked plate tectonics to Earth’s atmosphere and the recycling of the crust. Other research has found that if plate tectonics did not force big chunks of rocks to dive under each other and back into Earth, the seafloor might be rigid and devoid of life. And some researchers believe that without the movement of continents, life might not have evolved into the complex forms we see today.

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