Geologists reveal ‘omnipresent’ effects of human impact on England’s landscape

Posted by ap507 at Jul 28, 2017 09:35 AM |
Scientists show how the Anthropocene has transformed England
Geologists reveal ‘omnipresent’ effects of human impact on England’s landscape

Source: Jonathan Sisson / University of Leicester

‘Omnipresent’ signs demonstrating the effects of human impact on England’s landscape have been revealed by researchers from our Department of Geology.

Concrete structures forming a new, human-made rock type; ash particles in the landscape; and plastic debris are just a few of the new materials irreversibly changing England’s landscape and providing evidence of the effects of the Anthropocene, the research suggests.

The Anthropocene - the concept that humans have so transformed geological processes at the Earth’s surface that we are living in a new epoch - was formulated by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen in 2000.

Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, from our Department of Geology, said: “We are realising that the Anthropocene is a phenomenon on a massive scale – it is the transformation of our planet by human impact, in ways that have no precedent in the 4.54 billion years of Earth history. Our paper explores how these changes appear when seen locally, on a more modest scale, amid the familiar landscapes of England.”

Professor Mark Williams, from our Department of Geology, said: “These changes taken together are now virtually omnipresent as the mark of the English Anthropocene. They are only a small part of the Anthropocene changes that have taken place globally. But, to see them on one’s own doorstep brings home the sheer scale of these planetary changes – and the realisation that geological change does not recognise national boundaries.”

The research, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, has been conducted by geologists Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin Waters, Mark Williams and Ian Wilkinson at the University of Leicester, working together with zoologist David Aldridge at Cambridge University, as part of a major review of the geological history of England organised by the Geologists’ Association. 

Listen to an interview with Professors Zalasiewicz and Williams about how humans are permanently reshaping our planet below:

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