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The loneliest tree in the world bears witness to the footprint of the human race on Earth.
As noted by experts, the rings of the ‘loneliest tree on Earth’ could have the answer to exactly when the Anthropocene Era began.
A Sitka tree, called the “loneliest tree in the world” because of its remote location on an uninhabited sub-Antarctic island, could know something really important about the geological era in which we live in, something that many scientists have already agreed on, and called the Anthropocene Era and whose start has been nothing less than controversial until now.
The Anthropocene is basically an era marked by the profound alteration of terrestrial systems by mankind, in times when development has been accelerating since the middle of the last century, mostly due to industrialization and new technologies.
To formally define the establishment of the Anthropocene, it is necessary that the scientific community finds a globally accepted signature in the geological samples that are being studied.
The authors of a new study, in an international effort led by the University of New South Wales (Australia) and members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014 has reported that the most isolated tree on Earth, planted more than 100 years ago bares traces of atomic tests, an unmistakable sign of the Anthropocene, the geological era determined by the human being.
The tree is located on Campbell Island and it is referred to as ‘the loneliest tree in the world’ due to the fact that the nearest tree is more than 200 kilometers away on the Auckland Islands.
Scientists from Keele University have identified a peak of radioactive carbon that was created by the thermonuclear atmospheric bomb tests in the Northern Hemisphere in the 1950s and 1960s, in the tree’s heartwood, the driest and most compact central part of the trunk and thick branches of a tree.
Experts say that the signal was fixed in the wood of the Campbell Island Sitka spruce by photosynthesis.
Professor Fogwill, Head of the School of Geography, Geology, and Environment at Keele University, said in a statement:
“The impact that, humanity’s nuclear weapons testing has had on the Earth’s atmosphere provides a global signal that unambiguously confirms that humans have become the major agent of change on the planet. This is an important, yet worrying finding. The global atomic bomb signal, captured in the annual rings of this invasive tree species, represents a line in the sand, after which our collective actions have stamped an indelible mark, which will define this new geological epoch for generations to come.”
Several researchers from around the world have been talking about the declaration of a new geological epoch called Anthropocene, which indicates the point where human influence on the planet fundamentally changed the natural world.
However, for a new era to be formally declared, there must be a clear and specific “global” signal that can be identified in the geological formation materials of the future.
This radiocarbon peak is that signal.
Lead author Professor Chris Turney, from University of New South Wales, said: “We were especially excited to observe this signal in the Southern Hemisphere on a remote island, because for the first time it gave us a well-defined global signature for a new geological epoch that could be conserved in the geological record. Thousands of years from now this golden spike should still stand as a detectable marker for the transformation of the Earth by humankind.”