The transition to the diverse and complex biosphere of the Ediacaran and early Paleozoic is the culmination of a complex history of tectonic, climate, and geochemical development. Although much of this rise occurred in the middle and late intervals of the Neoproterozoic Era (1000–541 million years ago [Ma]), the foundation for many of these developments was laid much earlier, during the latest Mesoproterozic Stenian Period (1200–1000 Ma) and early Neoproterozoic Tonian Period (1000–720 Ma). Concurrent with the development of complex ecosystems, changes in the composition, configuration, and tectonic interaction between continental plates have been proposed as major shapers of both climate and biogeochemical cycling, but there is little support in the geologic record for overriding tectonic controls. Biogeochemical evidence, however, suggests that an expansion of marine oxygen concentrations may have stabilized nutrient cycles and created more stable environmental conditions under which complex, eukaryotic life could gain a foothold and flourish. The interaction of tectonic, biogeochemical, and climate processes, as described in this paper, resulted in the establishment of habitable environments that fostered the Ediacaran and early Phanerozoic radiations of animal life and the emergence of complex, modern-style ecosystems.