A range of published arguments against formalizing the Anthropocene as a geological time unit have variously suggested that it is a misleading term of non-stratigraphic origin and usage, is based on insignificant temporal and material stratigraphic content unlike that used to define
older geological time units, is focused on observation of human history or speculation about the future rather than geologically significant events, and is driven more by politics than science. In response, we contend that the Anthropocene is a functional term that has firm geological grounding
in a well-characterized stratigraphic record. This record, although often lithologically thin, is laterally extensive, rich in detail and already reflects substantial elapsed (and in part irreversible) change to the Earth System that is comparable to or greater in magnitude than that of previous
epoch-scale transitions. The Anthropocene differs from previously defined epochs in reflecting contemporary geological change, which in turn also leads to the term's use over a wide range of social and political discourse. Nevertheless, that use remains entirely distinct from its demonstrable
stratigraphic underpinning. Here we respond to the arguments opposing the geological validity and utility of the Anthropocene, and submit that a strong case may be made for the Anthropocene to be treated as a formal chronostratigraphic unit and added to the Geological Time Scale.
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GEOLOGICAL TIME SCALE;
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 April 2017
This article was made available online on 20 March 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Making the case for a formal Anthropocene Epoch: an analysis of ongoing critiques".
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Newsletters on Stratigraphy is an international, peer-reviewed journal with a focus on stratigraphic issues that are relevant for a broad geoscientific community. Papers published in Newsletters on Stratigraphy use (and ideally integrate) stratigraphic methodologies from a wide field of disciplines, including (but not limited to) biostratigraphy, chronostratigraphy, chemostratigraphy, and magnetostratigraphy.
The results have implications for paleogeographic reconstructions, paleoceanography, paleoclimate, biotic evolution, basin development, or regional and supraregional correlation.
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