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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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