An introduction to the Anthropocene: case for and against a new epoch
Published:January 01, 2014
2014. "An introduction to the Anthropocene: case for and against a new epoch", A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene, C. N. Waters, J. A. Zalasiewicz, M. Williams, M. Ellis, A. M. Snelling
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Recognition of intimate feedback mechanisms linking changes across the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere and hydrosphere demonstrates the pervasive nature of humankind’s influence, perhaps to the point that we have fashioned a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. To what extent will these changes be evident as long-lasting signatures in the geological record?
To establish the Anthropocene as a formal chronostratigraphical unit it is necessary to consider a spectrum of indicators of anthropogenically induced environmental change, and to determine how these show as stratigraphic signals that can be used to characterize an Anthropocene unit and to recognize its base. It is important to consider these signals against a context of Holocene and earlier stratigraphic patterns. Here we review the parameters used by stratigraphers to identify chronostratigraphical units and how these could apply to the definition of the Anthropocene. The onset of the range of signatures is diachronous, although many show maximum signatures which post-date 1945, leading to the suggestion that this date may be a suitable age for the start of the Anthropocene.
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A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene
Humankind has pervasively influenced the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere, arguably to the point of fashioning a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. To constrain the Anthropocene as a potential formal unit within the Geological Time Scale, a spectrum of indicators of anthropogenically-induced environmental change is considered, and shown as stratigraphical signals that may be used to characterize an Anthropocene unit, and to recognize its base. This volume describes a range of evidence that may help to define this potential new time unit and details key signatures that could be used in its definition. These signatures include lithostratigraphical (novel deposits, minerals and mineral magnetism), biostratigraphical (macro- and micro-palaeontological successions and human-induced trace fossils) and chemostratigraphical (organic, inorganic and radiogenic signatures in deposits, speleothems and ice and volcanic eruptions). We include, finally, the suggestion that humans have created a further sphere, the technosphere, that drives global change.