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Humans as major geological and geomorphological agents in the Anthropocene: the significance of artificial ground in Great Britain \ud

By Simon J. Price, Jonathan R. Ford, Anthony H. Cooper and Catherine Neal

Abstract

Since the first prehistoric people started to dig for stone to make implements, rather than pick up loose material, humans have modified the landscape through excavation of rock and soil, generation of waste and creation of artificial ground. In Great Britain over the past 200 years, people have excavated, moved and built up the equivalent of at least six times the volume of Ben Nevis. It is estimated that the worldwide deliberate annual shift of sediment by human activity is 57 000 Mt (million tonnes) and exceeds that of transport by rivers to the oceans (22 000 Mt) almost by a factor of three. Humans sculpt and transform the landscape through the physical modification of the shape and properties of the ground. As such, humans are geological and geomorphological agents and the dominant factor in landscape evolution through settlement and widespread industrialization and urbanization. The most significant impact of this has been since the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, coincident with increased release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The anthropogenic sedimentological record, therefore, provides a marker on which to characterize the Anthropocene

Publisher: Royal Society
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1098/rsta.2010.0296
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:13318

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