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Evidence for a new geological epoch; the Anthropocene is here

Evidence for a new geological epoch; the Anthropocene is here

Human activity has done a lot for Earth. Some of it has gone in Earth s favor but most of it has gone against it. Now, researchers are studying if human activity has driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.

The Anthropocene, which is expected to have started in the mid-20th Century, is associated with the spread of materials such as aluminium, concrete, plastic, fly ash and fallout from nuclear testing across the planet, concurrent with elevated greenhouse gas emissions and unparalleled trans-global species invasions.

According to a recent paper by an international group of geoscientists, the evidence for a new geological epoch that marks the impact of human activity on Earth is massive.

Several scientists have provided significant inputs on the Anthropocene concept. Colin Waters and Michael Ellis, both from the British Geological Survey, Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams and Matt Edgeworth from Leicester University and Colin Summerhayes from Cambridge University are worth mentioning.

The question that arises is whether the Anthropocene world is significantly different from the stable Holocene Epoch of the last 11,700 years that allowed human civilization to develop.

The Holocene Epoch is an era of development, adaptability, human flexibility to mend resources and increase food production, built urban settlements and becoming adept at developing water, mineral and energy resources of the planet. The Anthropocene Epoch on the other hand is entirely different. It is argued to be a time of rapid environmental change initiated on by the impact of a course in human population and enhanced consumption during the 'Great Acceleration' of the mid-20th century.

Dr Colin Waters of the British Geological Survey said, Since time immemorial, humans have had an impact on the environment. There has recently been a rapid global spread of new materials, including aluminium, concrete and plastics, which are leaving their mark in sediments. Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, a co-author and working group Chair has stated that fly-ash, radioactive activity and nuclear bomb testing shows an underlying reality to the Anthropocene concept.

The study, co-authored by 24 members of the Anthropocene Working Group, states that there has been a massive change in the Earth system following human activity. A range of signals in sediments and ice have been initiated that justify recognition of an Anthropocene Epoch in the Geological Time Scale.

More evidence will be collected in 2016 by the Anthropocene Working Group on the Anthropocene. This data will further help inform recommendations on whether this new time unit should be formalized.

Image credit: igbp.net

Evidence for a new geological epoch; the Anthropocene is here