Research Ancient Atmosphere

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We surely have good arguments to believe that the atmospheric composition had changed drastically throughout the geological eras. Some geoscientists even propose that the pressure might have been higher during some eras.


Whatever the models, paleontologists acknowledge that fossils reflect these changes well.


For the last 3 years, Geodoxa is experimenting on small ecosystems under different pressures. We use plants, insects, and forest litter in acrylic tubes at pressure up to 1 bar (2 ATA) above normal pressure. Until now there are not too many experiments on the topic. To encourage this area of research, Geodoxa is willing to share some of its expertise and data with faculties and labs around the world.

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We are aware of HBOT medicine (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) but less with hyperbaric atmosphere botanic (HBAB). It all started in the 2000s when Sara Decherd (Decherd 2006) was growing ginkgo biloba for her HBAB PhD. Her thesis attempts to answer an old question: What kind of ecosystem was able to sustain such giant fauna like the sauropods? Maybe it was due to a different atmosphere; higher pressure, more CO2 and O2… Since then, there were no new HBAB publications except for one experiment in Japan (Hiroyuki et al., 2013). Most paleontologists recognize that ancient atmosphere had varied greatly in composition, but the idea of higher pressure is more controversial. Levenspiel (2006) worked on a theoretical HBA model to answer the dinosaur’s dilemma. He admits that paleontology journals were reluctant to publish his view.


Paleo-entomologists are raising insects in a higher oxygen atmosphere (not hyperbaric) to simulate hypothetical carboniferous atmospheres. For results you can check this website:

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In the last few years, Geodoxa built HBAB terrariums (insects and plants) to explore some of these models. The last 2 months have been successful. Equisetum (horsetail) grows much stronger with thicker walls. Two Equisetum sterns (dia= 10 mm) compared; left stern grew at 1 ATA (normal absolute atmosphere = 1 bar); right stern grew under 2 ATA with CO2 partial pressure slightly higher.

The next step is to measure the resistance of these HBAB sterns for a peer-review publication. We just start a collaboration with the nearby engineering school rheology laboratory (mechanic resistance of material). These days we are working on sensors to monitor CO2/O2 variations and to reduce air humidity.


There are three reasons to work on Equisetum:


  1. Ancient Equisetum like Calamites was gigantic in Carboniferous time. The Mesozoic fossils revealed that these plants were as common as grass can be today.

  2. Equisetum pumps and uses silica more than any other plant. Their sterns are tubular so their need to use silica for their strength. Such particular biochemistry might be a good avenue to explore.

  3. According to Gee et al. (2019), Equisetum is the best candidate to supply energetic food for the gigantic sauropods.

We are also growing Araucariaceae (Araucarias) under HBAB. These plants (Monkey puzzle tree, Cycad, Wollemi pine, Norfolk pines, ginkgo biloba) were thriving abundantly during the Mesozoic up to the mid-Cenozoic era. Today they are restricted to some restricted areas. Other species like angiosperm (flower plants) and modern gymnosperm (evergreen trees) are overwhelming them. Many Araucarias grow very slowly and are classified as endangered species.


If Araucarias ever grow faster under HBAB conditions, it will support the idea that ancient atmospheric pressure was higher than today. Meanwhile, we must keep in mind that this model might be nullified if modern plants give a similar result in HBAB conditions.

We know well that many plants grow faster when the CO2% is increased at normal pressure (1 ATA).


We must keep in mind that exploring new scientific frontiers might contradict our first a priori.