Defining the anthropocene

Nature. 2015 Mar 12;519(7542):171-80. doi: 10.1038/nature14258.


Time is divided by geologists according to marked shifts in Earth's state. Recent global environmental changes suggest that Earth may have entered a new human-dominated geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Here we review the historical genesis of the idea and assess anthropogenic signatures in the geological record against the formal requirements for the recognition of a new epoch. The evidence suggests that of the various proposed dates two do appear to conform to the criteria to mark the beginning of the Anthropocene: 1610 and 1964. The formal establishment of an Anthropocene Epoch would mark a fundamental change in the relationship between humans and the Earth system.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / history
  • Atmosphere / chemistry
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Chronology as Topic*
  • Environment*
  • Geology / methods*
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Human Activities / history*
  • Industry / history
  • Population Dynamics
  • Time Factors


  • Carbon Dioxide