Human impact affects Earth’s global energy flow

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London | Published: March 28, 2016 7:49:04 PM

The impact that human beings have made on the Earth in terms of production and consumption of natural resources has formed a 'striking new pattern' in the planet's global energy flow, finds a new research.

The impact that human beings have made on the Earth in terms of production and consumption of natural resources has formed a ‘striking new pattern’ in the planet’s global energy flow, finds a new research.

The results, published in the journal Earth’s Future, showed definite signs that human beings have permanently changed the planet and have triggered Anthropocene — an era where humans dominated Earth’s surface geology.

Patterns of human production and consumption mainly characterise the era.

Also, when measured against the billion-year old patterns of planet Earth, the present era forms a striking new pattern.

Human beings have seized something like one quarter of the net primary biological production of the planet and has become effectively the top predator both on land and at sea.

In addition, by digging phosphorus out of the ground and by fixing nitrogen out of the air to make fertilizers; and by exploiting hundreds of millions of years worth of stored carbon-based energy in a still-accelerating trend, humans are increasing productivity well above natural levels — and directing much of it towards animals that have been re-engineered to suit our purposes.

By becoming evident in rock and soil strata, the recent changes in Earth’s biosphere are beginning to signal towards a new biological stage in the planet’s evolution.

“This refashioning of the relationship between Earth’s production and consumption is leaving signals in strata now forming, and this helps characterise the Anthropocene as a geological time unit,” said one of the researchers Jan Zalasiewicz, professor at University of Leicester in Britain.

The findings, detailed in the journal Earth’s Future, revealed that Earth is now characterised by a geologically unprecedented pattern of global energy flow that is pervasively influenced by humans — and is also increasingly necessary for maintaining the complexity of modern human societies.

The perturbation in the balance between the economic production and consumption, the essential trait of modern human society, notably since the mid-20th century, will display a lasting legacy of human existence on Earth.

“Very big changes in our planet’s pattern of biological production and consumption do not happen very often. The appearance of photosynthesis was one, about two and a half billion years ago,” Zalasiewicz pointed out.

“Other major events have happened since, such as five major mass extinctions, but even measured against these events, human-driven changes to production and consumption are distinctly new,” he concluded.

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