5S – Ecosphere, Biosphere & Gaia

Supporting article S: Ecosphere, Biosphere and Gaia: Do they all mean the same thing?


The terms biosphere, ecosphere, and Gaia are used as names for the global ecosystem. However, each has more than one meaning. Biosphere can mean the totality of living things residing on the Earth, the space occupied by living things, or life and life-support systems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and pedosphere). Ecosphere is used as a synonym of biosphere and as a term for zones in the universe where life as we know it should be sustainable. Gaia is similar to biosphere (in the sense of life and life-support systems) and ecosphere (in the sense of biosphere as life and life-support systems), but, in its most extreme form, refers to the entire planet as a living entity. A case is made for avoiding the term Gaia (at least as a name for the planetary ecosystem), restricting biosphere to the totality of living things, and adopting the ecosphere as the most apt name for the global ecosystem.