O. Hoegh-Guldberg, 2014. "Coral reefs in the Anthropocene: persistence or the end of the line?", A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene, C. N. Waters, J. A. Zalasiewicz, M. Williams, M. Ellis, A. M. Snelling
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Tropical coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs have provided food, income and resources to humans for millennia. The first interactions that people had with coral reef ecosystems left little signature or impact, most probably due to the restricted access, as well as the challenges and ephemeral technologies that people used to exploit these important ecosystems. As human populations expanded along tropical coastal areas, however, the influence of coastal people on coral reefs grew rapidly. Deforestation and coastal agriculture reduced coastal water quality, with many fringing coral reefs disappearing as impacts grew. Increasing numbers of fishers with increasingly advanced technologies exploited tropical coastal fisheries so that many marine species declined dramatically. These activities have removed some functional groups to the point where ecological transformations away from coral-dominated communities increasingly occurred. Shipping and marine pollution, as well as ocean warming and acidification from the burning of fossil fuels, have added further stress on tropical marine ecosystems. The latter represents a major threat with even small amounts of change potentially driving the ecological extinction of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Given inaction on the core drivers of these changes, the future does not look bright for coral reef ecosystems as we move into the critical phase of the Anthropocene Epoch.
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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.