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Human bioturbation, and the subterranean landscape of the Anthropocene

Zalasiewicz, Jan; Waters, Colin N.; Williams, Mark. 2014 Human bioturbation, and the subterranean landscape of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene, 6. 3-9. 10.1016/j.ancene.2014.07.002

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Abstract/Summary

Bioturbation by humans (‘anthroturbation’), comprising phenomena ranging from surface landscaping to boreholes that penetrate deep into the crust, is a phenomenon without precedent in Earth history, being orders of magnitude greater in scale than any preceding non-human type of bioturbation. These human phenomena range from simple individual structures to complex networks that range to several kilometres depth (compared with animal burrows that range from centimetres to a few metres in depth), while the extraction of material from underground can lead to topographic subsidence or collapse, with concomitant modification of the landscape. Geological transformations include selective removal of solid matter (e.g. solid hydrocarbons, metal ores), fluids (natural gas, liquid hydrocarbons, water), local replacement by other substances (solid waste, drilling mud), associated geochemical and mineralogical changes to redox conditions with perturbation of the water table and pH conditions and local shock-metamorphic envelopes with melt cores (in the case of underground nuclear tests). These transformations started in early/mid Holocene times, with the beginning of mining for flint and metals, but show notable inflections associated with the Industrial Revolution (ca 1800 CE) and with the ‘Great Acceleration’ at ∼1950 CE, the latter date being associated with the large-scale extension of this phenomenon from sub-land surface to sub-sea floor settings. Geometrically, these phenomena cross-cut earlier stratigraphy. Geologically, they can be regarded as a subsurface expression of the surface chronostratigraphic record of the Anthropocene. These subsurface phenomena have very considerable potential for long-term preservation.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.ancene.2014.07.002
ISSN: 22133054
Date made live: 18 Dec 2014 13:57 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/509142

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