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'World's loneliest tree' records new epoch

Posted on Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 | Comment icon 5 comments

The loneliest tree on Earth. Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 Chris Turney et al.
A solitary tree on an island in New Zealand may hold the key to determining the beginning of the Anthropocene.
Most scientists would agree that the Earth has now emerged in to the Anthropocene era - a new geological period defined by mankind's influence over the planet's climate and environment.

Exactly when this transition in to a new era actually took place however remains a matter of debate.

Now in a renewed bid to find the answer, scientists have turned to New Zealand's Campbell Island - home to a single Sitka spruce which, at 117 years old, may hold the key to determining the precise moment when the Holocene epoch gave way to the Anthropocene.

According to the research, traces of radioactive material found in the rings of the tree are thought to contain the 'synchronous global signature within geological-forming materials' needed to 'formally define the onset of the Anthropocene.'

This radioactivity was left over from atomic bomb tests carried out in the South Pacific.

"We were incredibly excited to find this signal in the Southern Hemisphere on a remote island, because for the first time it gave us a well-defined global signature for a new geological epoch that could be preserved in the geological record," said lead author Professor Chris Turney.

"Thousands of years from now this golden spike should still stand as a detectable marker for the transformation of the Earth by humankind."

Source: | Comments (5)

Tags: Anthropocene, Epoch

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Almighty Evan on 21 February, 2018, 13:36
Radioactivity in tree rings seems to be an arbitrary standard.  The ancient Romans' worldwide copper smelting pollution is also evidence of "mankind's influence over the planet's climate and environment."
Comment icon #2 Posted by Noxasa on 21 February, 2018, 17:51
There is no way to measure the start of a geologic era when you're in it because there's no geological measurements at the top of the rock strata series to know when the global geology changed enough to justify a new geological timescale boundary.  And there's certainly none that has been found yet globally.  Using radiology from a tree that was local to a small regional environmental event (Atomic Bomb) caused by humans to justify a global geographical timeline division is very weak reasoning such that it hints an an ulterior motive.  Mankind could come and go into extinction and even that wo... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by Almighty Evan on 21 February, 2018, 19:14
Perhaps the funding was more available to "prove" man's eeevil use of "nucular" technology. Anyway, I simply found just as valid of a historical standard to use in rebuttal.  Guessing the scientists had fun on the trip..  
Comment icon #4 Posted by DieChecker on 22 February, 2018, 8:36
The loneliest tree? Why didn't the son of b's that planted it plant others so it had company?
Comment icon #5 Posted by MisterMan on 23 February, 2018, 22:06
WTF?  We already knew when atomic bomb tests happened, and didn't need to test tree rings to find out.  And how did those bomb tests have any kind of significant "influence over the planet's climate and environment?"  Why not pick the natural selection of darker moths due to the industrial revolution as the start?  Or the domestication of wolves?

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