Could a potential Anthropocene mass extinction define a new geological period?

K. L. Bacon, Graeme T. Swindles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A key aspect of the current debate about the Anthropocene focuses on defining a new geological epoch. Features of the Anthropocene include a biodiversity crisis with the potential to reach ‘mass extinction’ status alongside increasing global CO2 and temperature. Previous geological boundaries associated with mass extinctions, rises in atmospheric CO2 and rises in global temperature are more usually associated with transitions between geological periods. The current rapid increase in species extinctions suggest that a new mass extinction event is most likely imminent in the near-term future. Although CO2 levels are currently low in comparison with the rest of the Phanerozoic, they are rising rapidly along with global temperatures. This suggests that defining the Anthropocene as a new geological period, rather than a new epoch, may be more consistent with previous geological boundaries in the Phanerozoic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-217
JournalAnthropocene Review
Issue number3
Early online date12 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropocene
  • epoch
  • Holocene
  • mass extinction
  • period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Geology


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