The rapid rise in the atmospheres oxygen roughly 500 million years ago which made advanced animal life possible on Earth is linked to the process that led to the formation of fossil fuels, suggests new research.
- The key is to recognise that sediment storage blocks the oxidation of carbon. Without burial, this oxidation reaction causes dead plant material on Earth’s surface to burn.
- That causes the carbon it contains, which originated in the atmosphere, to bond with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. And for oxygen to build up in our atmosphere, plant organic matter must be protected from oxidation.
- And that is exactly what happens when organic matter — the raw material of coal, oil and natural gas — is buried through geologic processes.