Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) for the Anthropocene Series: Where and how to look for potential candidates

Colin N. Waters, Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin Summerhayes, Ian J. Fairchild, Neil L. Rose, Neil J. Loader, William Shotyk, Alejandro Cearreta, Martin J. Head, James P. M. Syvitski, Mark Williams, Michael Wagreich, Anthony D. Barnosky, An Zhisheng, Reinhold Leinfelder, Catherine Jeandel, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Juliana A. Ivar Do Sul, Felix Gradstein, Will SteffenJohn R. Mcneill, Scott Wing, Clément Poirier, Matt Edgeworth

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The Anthropocene as a potential new unit of the International Chronostratigraphic Chart (which serves as the basis of the Geological Time Scale) is assessed in terms of the stratigraphic markers and approximate boundary levels available to define the base of the unit. The task of assessing and selecting potential Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) candidate sections, a required part of the process in seeking formalisation of the term, is now being actively pursued. Here, we review the suitability of different stratified palaeoenvironmental settings and facies as potential hosts for a candidate GSSP and auxiliary sections, and the relevant stratigraphical markers for correlation. Published examples are evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses in this respect. A marked upturn in abundance of radioisotopes of 239Pu or 14C, approximately in 1952 and 1954 CE respectively, broadly coincident with a downturn in δ13C values, is applicable across most environments. Principal palaeoenvironments examined include: settings associated with accumulations of anthropogenic material, marine anoxic basins, coral reefs, estuaries and deltas, lakes at various latitudes, peat bogs, snow/ice layers, speleothems and trees. Together, many of these geographically diverse palaeoenvironments offer annual/subannual laminae that can be counted and independently dated radiometrically (e.g. by 210Pb). Examples of possible sections offer the possibility of correlation with annual/seasonal resolution. From among such examples, a small number of potentially representative sites require the acquisition of more systematic and comprehensive datasets, with correlation established between sections, to allow selection of a candidate GSSP and auxiliary stratotypes. The assessments in this paper will help find the optimal locations for these sections.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth Science Reviews
Early online date30 Dec 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Dec 2017


  • anthropocene
  • global boundary stratotype sections and points
  • chronostratigraphy
  • palaeoenvironments


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