Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scientists say the Holocene is over

Scientists are calling for the official designation of a new earth epoch: the Anthropocene. Addressing the 'Planet under Pressure' gathering in London, they say one species has left an indelible mark.

Scientists are pushing to officially change the name of the current geological epoch, as the world prepares to take stock of its 20-year record of addressing global environmental problems.

Experts say designating the arrival of the 'Anthropocene,' or age of man, would capture the nature and extent of changes on the planet, and could spark a shift in how humanity thinks of its presence on Earth.

Pointing to climate change, dwindling fish stocks, continued deforestation, rapid species decline, and human population growth, Erle Ellis, an ecologist at the University of Maryland, said the vast majority of ecosystems on the planet now reflect the presence of people.

We are already past "a human-systems tipping point" where we should be wondering whether we are in the Anthropocene or not, Ellis said.

In future, he said, the evidence for the Anthropocene will be apparent in the sedimentation record: in the rapid increase in carbon deposits, in traces of cities, and the fossils of domesticated animals. More