The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)

Human activity is leaving a pervasive and persistent signature on Earth. Vigorous debate continues about whether this warrants recognition as a new geologic time unit known as the Anthropocene. We review anthropogenic markers of functional changes in the Earth system through the stratigraphic record. The appearance of manufactured materials in sediments, including aluminum, plastics, and concrete, coincides with global spikes in fallout radionuclides and particulates from fossil fuel combustion. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles have been substantially modified over the past century. Rates of sea-level rise and the extent of human perturbation of the climate system exceed Late Holocene changes. Biotic changes include species invasions worldwide and accelerating rates of extinction. These combined signals render the Anthropocene stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene and earlier epochs.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Waters, CN; Zalasiewicz, J; Summerhayes, C; Barnosky, AD; Poirier, C; GaƂuszka, A; Cearreta, A; Edgeworth, M; Ellis, EC; Ellis, M; Jeandel, C; Leinfelder, R; McNeill, JR; Richter, DD; Steffen, W; Syvitski, J; Vidas, D; Wagreich, M; Williams, M; Zhisheng, A; Grinevald, J; Odada, E; Oreskes, N; Wolfe, AP

Published Date

  • January 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 351 / 6269

Start / End Page

  • aad2622 -

PubMed ID

  • 26744408

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-9203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0036-8075

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1126/science.aad2622


  • eng