Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Extreme makeover: Mankind's unprecedented transformation of Earth

30.06.2015

University of Leicester researchers suggest a turning point for the planet and its resources

  • Human impact on Earth produces a unique kind of biosphere
  • Changes to life may be the greatest for the past half billion years
  • Earth may be entering a new kind of planetary state

This is a Japanese Garden in Kyoto, a very visible way in which humans "Anthropocize" the biosphere.

Credit: University of Leicester

Human beings are pushing the planet in an entirely new direction with revolutionary implications for its life, a new study by researchers at the University of Leicester has suggested.

The research team led by Professor Mark Williams from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology has published their findings in a new paper entitled 'The Anthropocene Biosphere' in The Anthropocene Review.

Professor Jan Zalasiewicz from the University of Leicester's Department of Geology who was involved in the study explained the research: "We are used to seeing headlines daily about environmental crises: global warming, ocean acidification, pollution of all kinds, looming extinctions. These changes are advancing so rapidly, that the concept that we are living in a new geological period of time, the Anthropocene Epoch - proposed by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen - is now in wide currency, with new and distinctive rock strata being formed that will persist far into the future.

"But what is really new about this chapter in Earth history, the one we're living through? Episodes of global warming, ocean acidification and mass extinction have all happened before, well before humans arrived on the planet. We wanted to see if there was something different about what is happening now."

The team examined what makes the Anthropocene special and different from previous crises in Earth's history. They identified four key changes:

  • The homogenisation of species around the world through mass, human-instigated species invasions - nothing on this global scale has happened before
  • One species, Homo sapiens, is now in effect the top predator on land and in the sea, and has commandeered for its use over a quarter of global biological productivity. There has never been a single species of such reach and power previously
  • There is growing direction of evolution of other species by Homo sapiens
  • There is growing interaction of the biosphere with the 'technosphere' - a concept pioneered by one of the team members, Professor Peter Haff of Duke University - the sum total of all human-made manufactured machines and objects, and the systems that control them

In total, the team suggests that these changes represent a planetary transformation as fundamental as the one that saw the evolution of the photosynthetic microbes which oxygenated the planet 2.4 billion years ago, or that saw the transition from a microbial Earth to one dominated by multicellular organisms half a billion years ago.

Professor Williams added: "We think of major changes to the biosphere as the big extinction events, like that which finished off the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period. But the changes happening to the biosphere today may be much more significant, and uniquely are driven by the actions of one species, humans."

###

The team includes Professor Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz (University of Leicester), Peter Haff (Duke University, USA), Christian Schwägerl (Aßmannshauser Strasse 17, Berlin, Germany), Anthony D Barnosky (University of California, USA) and Erle C Ellis (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA).

The paper 'The Anthropocene Biosphere' is published in The Anthropocene Review and is available here: http://anr.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/06/17/2053019615591020.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=spanr;2053019615591020v1

Images of the growing global technosphere and Professors Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ojdocgdy0pk4qld/AACEbF6Nbe_hDgL6lmM1tTXva?dl=0

Media Contact

Mark Williams
mri@le.ac.uk
01-162-523-642

 @UniofLeicester

http://www.leicester.ac.uk 

Mark Williams | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>