Topic ID #28497 - posted 4/30/2013 2:50 AM

Humans' indelible stamp on Earth clear 5000 years ago

Jennifer Palmer

 Humans' indelible stamp on Earth clear 5000 years ago

    20:00 29 April 2013 by Fred Pearce

When did humans stamp our footprint on the planet? The idea that we have entered a geological epoch defined by our very presence – the Anthropocene – is gaining traction, but exactly when did this epoch begin? After the first atom bomb went off? At the start of the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century? Or was it a lot earlier? A new study argues that the Anthropocene began with the rise of farming or even in Neolithic times, when we took to widespread burning of the bush to hunt animals.

In a reappraisal of humanity's footprint, Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues calculate that across much of the world – excluding the poles – at least a fifth of the land had been transformed by humans as early as 5000 years ago. By contrast, most previous studies conclude that this level of transformation in land use was only reached around 100 years ago. Ellis's group also argues that this degree of land use would have released enough carbon dioxide to have warmed the local climate of the time.

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