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The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene.

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      Human activity is leaving a pervasive and persistent signature on Earth. Vigorous debate continues about whether this warrants recognition as a new geologic time unit known as the Anthropocene. We review anthropogenic markers of functional changes in the Earth system through the stratigraphic record. The appearance of manufactured materials in sediments, including aluminum, plastics, and concrete, coincides with global spikes in fallout radionuclides and particulates from fossil fuel combustion. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles have been substantially modified over the past century. Rates of sea-level rise and the extent of human perturbation of the climate system exceed Late Holocene changes. Biotic changes include species invasions worldwide and accelerating rates of extinction. These combined signals render the Anthropocene stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene and earlier epochs.

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      Most cited references 63

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      IntCal13 and Marine13 Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curves 0–50,000 Years cal BP

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        Transformation of the nitrogen cycle: recent trends, questions, and potential solutions.

        Humans continue to transform the global nitrogen cycle at a record pace, reflecting an increased combustion of fossil fuels, growing demand for nitrogen in agriculture and industry, and pervasive inefficiencies in its use. Much anthropogenic nitrogen is lost to air, water, and land to cause a cascade of environmental and human health problems. Simultaneously, food production in some parts of the world is nitrogen-deficient, highlighting inequities in the distribution of nitrogen-containing fertilizers. Optimizing the need for a key human resource while minimizing its negative consequences requires an integrated interdisciplinary approach and the development of strategies to decrease nitrogen-containing waste.
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          Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived?

          Palaeontologists characterize mass extinctions as times when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short interval, as has happened only five times in the past 540 million years or so. Biologists now suggest that a sixth mass extinction may be under way, given the known species losses over the past few centuries and millennia. Here we review how differences between fossil and modern data and the addition of recently available palaeontological information influence our understanding of the current extinction crisis. Our results confirm that current extinction rates are higher than would be expected from the fossil record, highlighting the need for effective conservation measures.

            Author and article information

            [1 ] British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK.
            [2 ] Department of Geology, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK.
            [3 ] Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER, UK.
            [4 ] Department of Integrative Biology, Museum of Paleontology, and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
            [5 ] Morphodynamique Continentale et Côtière, Université de Caen Normandie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 24 Rue des Tilleuls, F-14000 Caen, France.
            [6 ] Geochemistry and the Environment Division, Institute of Chemistry, Jan Kochanowski University, 15G Świętokrzyska Street, 25-406 Kielce, Poland.
            [7 ] Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Apartado 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain.
            [8 ] School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK.
            [9 ] Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.
            [10 ] Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (CNRS, Centre National d'Études Spatiales, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Université Paul Sabatier), 14 Avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France.
            [11 ] Department of Geological Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, Malteserstraße 74-100/D, 12249 Berlin, Germany.
            [12 ] Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA.
            [13 ] Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Box 90233, Durham, NC 27516, USA.
            [14 ] The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia.
            [15 ] Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder, Box 545, Boulder, CO 80309-0545, USA.
            [16 ] Marine Affairs and Law of the Sea Programme, The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway.
            [17 ] Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology, University of Vienna, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
            [18 ] State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an 710061, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.
            [19 ] Institut de Hautes Études Internationales et du Développement, Chemin Eugène Rigot 2, 1211 Genève 11, Switzerland.
            [20 ] Department of Geology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
            [21 ] Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
            [22 ] Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.
            Science (New York, N.Y.)
            Jan 8 2016
            : 351
            : 6269
            351/6269/aad2622 10.1126/science.aad2622 26744408
            Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.


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