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Human impact forms ‘striking new pattern’ in Earth’s global energy flow

The impact humans have made on Earth in terms of how we produce and consume resources has formed a ‘striking new pattern’ in the planet’s global energy flow, according to researchers from the University of Leicester.

The research suggests that the Earth is now characterised by a geologically unprecedented pattern of global energy flow that is pervasively influenced by humans – and which is necessary for maintaining the complexity of modern human societies.

The new study, published in the journalĀ Earth’s Future, is led by Professors Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester’s Department of Geology working with an international team of scholars.

While analysing the Anthropocene phenomenon – an epoch where humans dominate the Earth’s surface geology – the team identified that human patterns of production and consumption are a key factor characterizing the epoch, and when measured against the billion-year old patterns of planet Earth, they form a striking new pattern.

Professor Zalasiewicz said: “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. Then, a little over half a billion years ago, animals like trilobites appeared, to add scavengers and predators into a food web of increasing complexity.

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