About this Research Topic
The 2016 decision by the Working Group on the Anthropocene of the International Commission on Stratigraphy that the Anthropocene should be recognized as an Epoch in Earth history on the International Chronostratigraphic Chart raises numerous questions about how this new Epoch should be investigated and considered in relation to other epochs and periods in Earth history. The Anthropocene is the first epoch to be defined based on the direct actions of one species, Homo sapiens, having a global impact on the Earth system. Although full ratification of the Anthropocene, an exact start date and Global boundary Stratotype Section and Point selection will take may more years work, the acknowledgement that humans have impacted Earth systems enough to warrant the designation of a new Epoch raises questions about how to interpret a time slice in Earth history that is so dominated by the actions of one species. Do the same rules still apply for how ecosystems respond to the Anthropocene pressures that are often unique in their initiation? For example, the impacts of the Anthropocene range from major land use change (urbanization and agriculture), invasive species spread and homogenization of ecosystems, pollution across the geosphere and potential mass extinction to the reordering of natural ecosystems to something driven almost entirely by human activities. What do we now consider ‘natural’ and how well can inferences made about ecosystems’ and species’ responses to major environmental change in the geological record be used to inform and interpret modern and near-future environmental change. It also raises the question of whether we are moving outside of ‘natural’ responses in ecosystems – can we still predict how fragmented and pressured ecosystems will respond to climate change or other pressures in the near-term future?
The goal of this Research Topic is to highlight the ecological and biological challenges and implications of the new geological epoch and to address the many questions that the arrival of the Anthropocene raises with respect to understanding Earth systems and environments. We are interested in submissions that span the full remit of the topic – ecology, palaeoecology, biogeochemistry, and related areas that address how the new epoch may influence understanding of the geological past and vice versa; how the geological past may help us to understand the Anthropocene.
Keywords: Anthropocene, Ecology, Paleontology, Extinction, Ecosystem function
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