Scientists Select Canadian Lake to Mark Onset of the Anthropocene

Crawford Lake in Ontario, Canada.

Crawford Lake in Ontario, Canada. Whpq via Wikipedia

Scientists have selected Crawford Lake in Canada to mark the start of the Anthropocene, our new, human-dominated epoch.

By scattering nitrogen from fertilizers, ash from coal, and plutonium isotopes from nuclear weapons, humans have made a lasting imprint on the geologic record. But before declaring a new age, the Anthropocene, has begun, the International Union of Geological Sciences has to name a single site that will exemplify humanity’s profound impact on the Earth.

Crawford Lake was one of nine finalists, among them a peat bog in Poland, a swath of seafloor in the Baltic, a water-filled volcanic crater in China, and a coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico. As the winner, Crawford Lake will be marked with a golden spike.

While the lake may appear serene and undisturbed, the sediments beneath its waters hold the remains of Indigenous settlements, European colonies, logging, farming, burning fossil fuels, and testing nuclear weapons. Critically for its role as a record of human impact, “there are no burrowing organisms to disturb the sediments, allowing the precise calendar age of sediments to be determined by layer counting, just like tree rings,” Francine McCarthy, a scientist at Brock University in Ontario, told Yale E360.

“The sediments found at the bottom of Crawford Lake provide an exquisite record of recent environmental change over the last millennia,” Simon Turner, a researcher at University College London, said in a statement. “It is this ability to precisely record and store this information as a geological archive that can be matched to historical global environmental changes which make sites such as Crawford Lake so important.”


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