The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications

The Anthropocene is proposed as a new interval of geological time in which human influence on Earth and its geological record dominates over natural processes. A major challenge in demarcating the Anthropocene is that the balance between human-influenced and natural processes varies over spatial and...

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Main Authors: Antony G. Brown, Stephen Tooth, Joanna Bullard, David S.G. Thomas, Richard C. Chiverrell, Andrew J. Plater, Julian Murton, Varyl R. Thorndycraft, Paola Tarolli, James Rose, John Wainwright, Peter Downs, Rolf Aalto
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Published: 2017
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Online Access:https://hdl.handle.net/2134/21153
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spelling rr-article-94827292017-01-01T00:00:00Z The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications Antony G. Brown (7191407) Stephen Tooth (7191410) Joanna Bullard (1255221) David S.G. Thomas (7191413) Richard C. Chiverrell (7191416) Andrew J. Plater (7191419) Julian Murton (3296148) Varyl R. Thorndycraft (4278088) Paola Tarolli (7191422) James Rose (7182980) John Wainwright (6241664) Peter Downs (7191425) Rolf Aalto (7191428) Geology not elsewhere classified Other earth sciences not elsewhere classified Aeolian Anthropogenic Coastal Cryosphere Fluvial Stratigraphy Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified Geology The Anthropocene is proposed as a new interval of geological time in which human influence on Earth and its geological record dominates over natural processes. A major challenge in demarcating the Anthropocene is that the balance between human-influenced and natural processes varies over spatial and temporal scales owing to the inherent variability of both human activities (as associated with culture and modes of development) and natural drivers (e.g. tectonic activity and sea level variation). Against this backdrop, we consider how geomorphology might contribute towards the Anthropocene debate focussing on human impact on aeolian, fluvial, cryospheric and coastal process domains, and how evidence of this impact is preserved in landforms and sedimentary records. We also consider the evidence for an explicitly anthropogenic geomorphology that includes artificial slopes and other human-created landforms. This provides the basis for discussing the theoretical and practical contributions that geomorphology can make to defining an Anthropocene stratigraphy. It is clear that the relevance of the Anthropocene concept varies considerably amongst different branches of geomorphology, depending on the history of human actions in different process domains. For example, evidence of human dominance is more widespread in fluvial and coastal records than in aeolian and cryospheric records, so geomorphologically the Anthropocene would inevitably comprise a highly diachronous lower boundary. Even to identify this lower boundary, research would need to focus on the disambiguation of human effects on geomorphological and sedimentological signatures. This would require robust data, derived from a combination of modelling and new empirical work rather than an arbitrary ‘war of possible boundaries’ associated with convenient, but disputed, `golden spikes’. Rather than being drawn into stratigraphical debates, the primary concern of geomorphology should be with the investigation of processes and landform development, so providing the underpinning science for the study of this time of critical geological transition. 2017-01-01T00:00:00Z Text Journal contribution 2134/21153 https://figshare.com/articles/journal_contribution/The_geomorphology_of_the_Anthropocene_emergence_status_and_implications/9482729 CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
institution Loughborough University
collection Figshare
topic Geology not elsewhere classified
Other earth sciences not elsewhere classified
Aeolian
Anthropogenic
Coastal
Cryosphere
Fluvial
Stratigraphy
Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified
Geology
spellingShingle Geology not elsewhere classified
Other earth sciences not elsewhere classified
Aeolian
Anthropogenic
Coastal
Cryosphere
Fluvial
Stratigraphy
Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified
Geology
Antony G. Brown
Stephen Tooth
Joanna Bullard
David S.G. Thomas
Richard C. Chiverrell
Andrew J. Plater
Julian Murton
Varyl R. Thorndycraft
Paola Tarolli
James Rose
John Wainwright
Peter Downs
Rolf Aalto
The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
description The Anthropocene is proposed as a new interval of geological time in which human influence on Earth and its geological record dominates over natural processes. A major challenge in demarcating the Anthropocene is that the balance between human-influenced and natural processes varies over spatial and temporal scales owing to the inherent variability of both human activities (as associated with culture and modes of development) and natural drivers (e.g. tectonic activity and sea level variation). Against this backdrop, we consider how geomorphology might contribute towards the Anthropocene debate focussing on human impact on aeolian, fluvial, cryospheric and coastal process domains, and how evidence of this impact is preserved in landforms and sedimentary records. We also consider the evidence for an explicitly anthropogenic geomorphology that includes artificial slopes and other human-created landforms. This provides the basis for discussing the theoretical and practical contributions that geomorphology can make to defining an Anthropocene stratigraphy. It is clear that the relevance of the Anthropocene concept varies considerably amongst different branches of geomorphology, depending on the history of human actions in different process domains. For example, evidence of human dominance is more widespread in fluvial and coastal records than in aeolian and cryospheric records, so geomorphologically the Anthropocene would inevitably comprise a highly diachronous lower boundary. Even to identify this lower boundary, research would need to focus on the disambiguation of human effects on geomorphological and sedimentological signatures. This would require robust data, derived from a combination of modelling and new empirical work rather than an arbitrary ‘war of possible boundaries’ associated with convenient, but disputed, `golden spikes’. Rather than being drawn into stratigraphical debates, the primary concern of geomorphology should be with the investigation of processes and landform development, so providing the underpinning science for the study of this time of critical geological transition.
format Default
Article
author Antony G. Brown
Stephen Tooth
Joanna Bullard
David S.G. Thomas
Richard C. Chiverrell
Andrew J. Plater
Julian Murton
Varyl R. Thorndycraft
Paola Tarolli
James Rose
John Wainwright
Peter Downs
Rolf Aalto
author_facet Antony G. Brown
Stephen Tooth
Joanna Bullard
David S.G. Thomas
Richard C. Chiverrell
Andrew J. Plater
Julian Murton
Varyl R. Thorndycraft
Paola Tarolli
James Rose
John Wainwright
Peter Downs
Rolf Aalto
author_sort Antony G. Brown (7191407)
title The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
title_short The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
title_full The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
title_fullStr The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
title_full_unstemmed The geomorphology of the Anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
title_sort geomorphology of the anthropocene: emergence, status and implications
publishDate 2017
url https://hdl.handle.net/2134/21153
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