Petrifying Earth Process: The Stratigraphic Imprint of Key Earth System Parameters in the Anthropocene

By Jan Zalasiewicz, Will Steffen, Reinhold Leinfelder, Mark Williams, Colin Waters | Theory, Culture & Society


The Anthropocene concept arose within the Earth System science (ESS) community, albeit explicitly as a geological (stratigraphical) time term. Its current analysis by the stratigraphical community, as a potential formal addition to the Geological Time Scale, necessitates comparison of the methodologies and patterns of enquiry of these two communities. One means of comparison is to consider some of the most widely used results of the ESS, the ‘planetary boundaries’ concept of Rockstro¨m and colleagues, and the ‘Great Acceleration’ graphs of Steffen and colleagues, in terms of their stratigraphical expression. This expression varies from virtually non-existent (stratospheric ozone depletion) to pronounced and many-faceted (primary energy use), while in some cases stratigraphical proxies may help constrain anthropogenic process (atmospheric aerosol loading). The Anthropocene concepts of the ESS and stratigraphy emerge as complementary, and effective stratigraphic definition should facilitate wider transdisciplinary communication.

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