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A change of scenery mankinds unprecedented transformation of Earth

Human beings are pushing the planet in an entirely new direction with revolutionary implications for its life, a new study by researchers from the Department of Geology and published in The Anthropocene Review suggests.

The team led by Professor Mark Williams examined what makes the Anthropocene - proposed by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen - special and different from previous crises in Earth’s history. They identified four key changes:

  • The homogenisation of species around the world through mass, human-instigated species invasions – nothing on this global scale has happened before
  • One species, Homo sapiens, is now in effect the top predator on land and in the sea, and has commandeered for its use over a quarter of global biological productivity. There has never been a single species of such reach and power previously
  • There is growing direction of evolution of other species by Homo sapiens
  • There is growing interaction of the biosphere with the ‘technosphere’ – a concept pioneered by one of the team members, Professor Peter Haff of Duke University - the sum total of all human-made manufactured machines and objects, and the systems that control them

The team suggests that these changes represent a planetary transformation as fundamental as the one that saw the evolution of the photosynthetic microbes which oxygenated the planet 2.4 billion years ago, or that saw the transition from a microbial Earth to one dominated by multicellular organisms half a billion years ago.

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