Plastic rock: the new anthropogenic marker in the geologic record

Figure courtesy of [1]

Figure courtesy of [1]

How can we measure the influence of human civilization on the story of planet Earth? There are the relics of culture, tools and keepsakes buried in the ground beneath the ruins of thousand-year-old societies, as well as the history of language and art preserved in libraries around the world. But there are also more dubious impacts, such as alterations to the planet’s chemical composition that can be tracked for centuries – an atmosphere bloated with carbon dioxide from our puffing power plants – or megafarms that have narrowed the genetic diversity of plants in the pursuit of increasing food production.

These latter stressors to the environment are becoming more numerous as our civilization becomes more crowded and serve as long-term signatures of our planetary dominance. Now, new research1 in The Geological Society of America has revealed an entirely different marker of our existence: plastic rock. This new form of sediment, borne from the collision between our consumer culture and the natural world, could last for millennia in the geologic record until uncovered by some future society combing the ground for hints about its own history.


Read more at Eyes on Environment on Nature’s Scitable Network!




Corcoran, P., Moore, C., & Jazvac, K. (2014). An anthropogenic marker horizon in the future rock record GSA Today, 4-8 DOI: 10.1130/GSAT-G198A.1

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