The term ‘Anthropocene’ in the context of formal geological classification

Phil L. Gibbard, Mike Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

In recent years, ‘Anthropocene’ has been proposed as an informal stratigraphic term to denote the current interval of anthropogenic global environmental change. A case has also been made to formalize it as a series/epoch, based on the recognition of a suitable marker event, such as the start of the Industrial Revolution in northern Europe. For the Anthropocene to merit formal definition, a global signature distinct from that of the Holocene is required that is marked by novel biotic, sedimentary and geochemical change. Although there is clear evidence of anthropogenic effects in geological sequences, it is uncertain whether these trends are sufficiently distinct, consistent and dated for the proposal for a Holocene/Anthropocene boundary to be substantiated. The current view of the Earth-Science community is that it should remain informal. For formal definition a Global Stratigraphic Section and Point (GSSP) is required. Adoption of the term ‘Anthropocene’ will ultimately depend on recognition of a global event horizon. Without this, there is no justification for decoupling the Anthropocene from the Holocene. If the Anthropocene is deemed to have utility, it should be as an informal historical designation rather than a formally defined stratigraphic unit (of whatever status) within the geological timescale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalGeological Society Special Publications
Volume395
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2013

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