We are studying modern soils and 400 million-year-old fossil soils to learn more about the early evolution of life on land.
Comparing ancient soil-like environments and modern analogues improves our understanding of how the first soils evolved alongside plants.
We are developing approaches to characterise and analyse modern soils in order to:
We are studying specimens of 400-million-year-old Rhynie chert in the Museum collections to learn more about ancient soil-like environments. These exceptionally well-preserved sediments from Scotland record associations between a diverse range of organisms.
The first soils on Earth were:
Our study of recent soils informs the wider understanding of fossil soils and their environments. We are drawing on the combined expertise of Museum biologists, palaeontologists and mineralogists.
Soils are a key interface between organisms and the environment. They develop as land surfaces and are colonised by:
Complex interactions between soils and underlying rocks affect the development of major geochemical cycles, such as the carbon cycle and the evolution of life on land.
Interpreting early soils requires a better understanding of modern analogues, particularly soils associated with lichens, moss, liverwort and lycopod plant communities.
Get in touch to enquire about a research collaboration or find out more about our projects.
A sedimentary rock deposit from the area around Rhynie, a village in Scotland. The 400-million-year-old chert contains exquisitely preserved plant, fungus, lichen and animal fossils, providing evidence of the earliest known terrestrial ecosystem in the world.
A natural or artificial process in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in a reservoir. Carbon is absorbed naturally by plants through photosynthesis and stored for up to thousands of years in soil organic matter.
A group of invertebrate animals with jointed legs, a segmented body and an exoskeleton. The group includes insects, crustaceans, spiders, centipedes and trilobites.