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 Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks

08.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>