The Taiga forest, on the edge of the Arctic, is a silent world of stunted conifers. The trees may be small but filming from the air reveals its true scale. A third of all trees on Earth grow here and during the short summer they produce enough oxygen to change the atmosphere.
2006 • Nature
Life in the sea rebounded with a vengeance in the Devonian. Dozens of monstrous predators emerged, like the 40-foot long Dunkleosteus. Nearly everything was wiped out in Earth’s second mass extinction. But the stage was set for an explosion of life on land.
Chris investigates how nature's masterminds measure up against human brain power. Looking at a variety of animals, such as ravens, crows, bees and starlings, Chris explores how different animals can use tools, solve complex puzzles, recognise themselves in mirrors and even reason like humans.
For the animals in the polar regions, autumn means dramatic battles and epic journeys. Time is running out - the Arctic Ocean is freezing over and the sea ice is advancing at 2.5 miles per day around Antarctica. Polar bears gather in large numbers on the Arctic coast as they wait for the return of the ice. Soon, tempers fray and violent sparring contests break out. Meanwhile 2,000 beluga whales head for one special estuary, a gigantic 'whale spa' where they will thrash their snow-white bodies against the gravel and exfoliate. Inland, the tundra undergoes a dramatic transformation from green to fiery red. Here, musk ox males slam head-first into each other with the force of a 30mph car crash as they struggle to defend their harems. Frisky young caribou males play a game of 'grandma's footsteps' as they try to steal the boss's female. Down in Antarctica, Adelie penguin chicks huddle together in creches. When a parent returns from fishing, it leads its twins on a comical steeplechase - sadly there's only enough for one, so the winner gets the meal. Two months later and the chicks are fully feathered apart from downy Mohican hairdos - they're ready to take their first swim - reluctantly though, as it seems penguins are not born with a love of water! And with good reason - a leopard seal explodes from the sea and pulls one from an ice floe, a hunting manoeuvre that has never been filmed before. As winter approaches and everyone has left, the giant emperor penguin arrives and makes an epic trek inland to breed. The mothers soon return to the sea leaving the fathers to hold the eggs and endure the coldest winter on earth.
The air we breathe, and all the food we eat, is created from water, sunlight, carbon dioxide and a few minerals. It sounds simple, but this process is one of the most fascinating and complicated in all of science, and without it there could be no life on earth. For centuries people believed that plants grew by eating soil. In the 17th century, pioneer botanists began to make the connection between the growth of a plant and the energy from the sun. They discovered how plants use water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugars - how, in fact, a plant grows. The process of photosynthesis is still at the heart of scientific research today, with universities across the world working hard to replicate in the lab what plants do with ruthless efficiency. Their goal is to produce a clean, limitless fuel and if they get it right it will change all our lives.