Everything in the Earth’s system can theoretically be placed into one of the five subsystems: earth, fire, water, air, and life. The Earth is an open system, meaning that energy and matter can be exchanged between several different systems. Since the planet’s formation, the key subsystems have continuously co-evolved. They are symbiotic in nature and the world would be a completely different place than it is today if one of these key subsystems was altered or disappeared altogether. These subsystems are frequently divided into different spheres of the earth, like the biosphere or the hydrosphere.
The earth subsystem, often called the geosphere, can be considered as all the parts that make up the mass of the earth. The earth has three main layers, the core, the mantle, and the crust. However, the lithosphere is just the upper part of the geosphere, the crust and the top portion of the mantle. These parts contribute to the active plate tectonics. The theory of plate tectonics is that the crust of the earth is divided into separate solid plates that move independently on top of the mantle. The two major processes of plate tectonics are spreading and subduction. This idea was discovered by Alfred Wegner in order to support his idea that the earth originally had one large common continent, Pangaea, before drifting into the several continents we have today.
Plates have three kinds of boundaries: constructive, destructive, and conservative. Constructive boundaries are mainly ocean ridges. They are simultaneously being created and destroyed and the crust is moved horizontally in the process. Destructive is when the boundaries of oceanic plates are dipping down diagonally below a neighboring plate. These neighboring plates are frequently continental and the friction between them frequently causes volcanic activity. For example, the ‘Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean is a very notable tectonic with destructive boundaries. Finally, conservative boundaries are those in which adjacent plates are moving past each other, without either creation or destruction of the crust (Plate Tectonics, 1993). The movement of these plates and their boundaries are the reason that the surface of the earth is shaped as it is today.
Plate tectonics control what part of the planet is exposed land and what part is oceanic. The current distribution of land and water on the earth’s surface significantly affect the circulations in the atmosphere and can lead to climate change, along with causing volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions affect the Earth’s system as a whole. They destroy large areas of land and change habitats drastically for all forms of life. The volcanic ash can screen out sunlight, lower the earth’s climate for several years and even influences the radiation balance (Olbers, 2012).
Plate tectonics is also a key agent in the rock cycle. The cycle is composed of several processes that are responsible for the recycling of rocks between their...