The half a billion of years claimed by the Neoproterozoic Era and Cambrian Period marks a great turning point in the history of Earth, beginning with a low diversity and low-PO2 ocean and atmosphere and ending with a more familiar, oxygen-rich atmosphere-ocean system, populated by diverse animal life. This time period encapsulates many other extraordinary events that helped shape the Earth's surface environment, including the break-up and amalgamation of supercontinents, snowball glaciations, true polar wander, and enormous perturbations to the global carbon cycle. The wealth of data emerging from abundant Neoproterozoic-Cambrian sedimentary successions increasingly points to an intimate connection between tectonic, geochemical, climatic, and biospheric change during this pivotal time, highlighting the complexity of the Earth system. Here we briefly review the tectonic, geochemical, and palaeontological records spanning the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian transition as a template for reconstructing the biogeochemical evolution of the surface environment as a habitable Earth emerged.
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