The anthropocene biosphere

Journal Article (Review;Journal)

The geological record preserves evidence for two fundamental stages in the evolution of Earth’s biosphere, a microbial stage from ~3.5 to 0.65 Ga, and a metazoan stage evident by c. 650 Ma. We suggest that the modern biosphere differs significantly from these previous stages and shows early signs of a new, third stage of biosphere evolution characterised by: (1) global homogenisation of flora and fauna; (2) a single species (Homo sapiens) commandeering 25-40% of net primary production and also mining fossil net primary production (fossil fuels) to break through the photosynthetic energy barrier; (3) human-directed evolution of other species; and (4) increasing interaction of the biosphere with the technosphere (the global emergent system that includes humans, technological artefacts, and associated social and technological networks). These unique features of today’s biosphere may herald a new era in the planet’s history that could persist over geological timescales.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Williams, M; Zalasiewicz, J; Haff, PK; Schwägerl, C; Barnosky, AD; Ellis, EC

Published Date

  • December 1, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 2 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 196 - 219

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2053-020X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2053-0196

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/2053019615591020

Citation Source

  • Scopus