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Baltic Sea GSSP: The Baltic Sea GSSP project: defining the onset of the Anthropocene Epoch

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2021
Project coordinated by:
Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin (HKW)
Project manager (IOW):
Dr. Jerome Kaiser
Haus der Kulturen Berlin

The aim of the present project is the candidature of the Baltic Sea as Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) reference site defining the beginning of the Anthropocene Epoch (or Series). The Baltic Sea is an ideal candidate as it is an almost closed sea under strong anthropogenic pressures. Human influence can be seen not only in its coastal zones, but also in the undisturbed uppermost sediments of the deep basins located in its central part (the Gotland Basin and the Landsort Deep). Therefore, short sediment cores were taken in December 2018 during EMB201 expedition in the central Baltic Sea. After opening and scanning (XRF scanner) the sediment cores, preliminary age models were built to estimate the time covered by the different cores. The most suitable core (EMB201/7-4 MUC1) is from the Gotland Deep basin (240 m water depth), which has been extremely well-studied since decades in terms of sedimentology, oceanography, water chemistry, and biology. Core EMB201/7-4 MUC1 is 45 cm in length. We estimate that it represents the time interval from the mid- to late 1800s until 2018, i.e. the year the core was recovered. In the middle of the core (ca. 25 cm sediment depth) a pronounced change in the lithology (due to an abrupt and strong increase in the content of organic carbon) marks very likely the early 1950s, which should represent the beginning of the Anthropocene. In order to characterize in details this transition, many analyses will be done on the sediment core. Based on previous IOW publications and preliminary results, we are confident that Baltic Sea sediments have a high potential as GSSP candidate.

Some related litterature:


  • Ivar do Sul, J. A. and M. Labrenz (2021). Microplastics into the Anthropocene. In: Handbook of Microplastics in the Environment. Ed. by T. Rocha-Santos, M. Costa and C. Mouneyrac. Cham: Springer International Publishing (Springer eBook Collection : Chemistry and Materials Science, SpringerNature-11644): online,
  • Bancone, C. E. P., S. D. Turner, J. A. Ivar do Sul and N. L. Rose (2020). The paleoecology of microplastic contamination. Front. Environ. Sci. 8: 574008, doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.574008