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Abstract

The term ‘Anthropocene’ has been proposed to indicate a geological interval characterized by global anthropogenic environmental change. This paper attempts to recognize a method by which the Anthropocene can be defined micropalaeontologically. In order to do this, microfloras and microfaunas (diatoms, macrophytes, dinoflagellate cysts, foraminifera and ostracods) from nearshore waters through to paralic and freshwater aquatic milieux are considered, and biotic variability with an anthropogenic causation identified. Microbiotic change can be related to anthropogenically induced extinctions, pollution-related mutation, environmentally influenced assemblage variability, geochemistry of carapaces/tests, floral change related to lacustrine acidification, faunal and floral correlation to industrial and agricultural signatures and introduction of exotic species via shipping. The influence of humanity on a local scale can be recognized in assemblages as far back as 5000 years BP. However, widespread anthropogenic change took place in Europe and America, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, although in Asia (e.g. Japan) it cannot be observed prior to the twentieth century. Profound and global biotic change began in the mid-twentieth century and, if the Anthropocene is to be defined in this way, then the period 1940–1945 might encompass the biotic base of the interval.

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