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The stratigraphic status of the Anthropocene

Gale, Stephen and Hoare, P.G. (2012) The stratigraphic status of the Anthropocene. The Holocene, 22 . pp. 1478-1481. ISSN 0959-6836

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The term Anthropocene was coined to describe the present geological epoch, in which human activity dominates many of the processes acting on the surface of the Earth. The expression has been widely adopted, but remains informal and lacks precise definition. There have been several attempts to establish formal stratigraphic markers to define the start of the Anthropocene. Most recently, Certini and Scalenghe (2011) have argued that the best markers are anthropogenic soils and that these may be used to identify the base of the Anthropocene in stratigraphic sequences. Unfortunately, soils fail to meet many of the criteria required for the establishment of stratigraphic ‘golden spikes’. Their preservation potential is poor, many stratigraphically important environments do not experience pedogenesis and anthrosols do not always provide the stratigraphically lowest marker of human impact. In addition, there are practical and theoretical difficulties in defining the base of anthrosols and thus in identifying the start of the Anthropocene. More generally, the worldwide diachroneity of human impact makes it impossible to establish a single chronological datum for the epoch, raising questions about the value of stratigraphic methods in defining the base of the Anthropocene. More significantly, much of the work undertaken on the Anthropocene lies beyond stratigraphy, and a stratigraphic definition of this epoch may be unnecessary, constraining and arbitrary. It is not clear for practical purposes whether there is any real need for a golden spike at the base of the Anthropocene. The global stratigraphic approach may prove of limited utility in studies of human environmental impact.

Item Type: Journal Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropocene anthrosols global stratotype section and point golden spike stratigraphy
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Divisions: Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment
Depositing User: Unnamed user with email
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2012 08:10
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2016 03:15

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