to from climate impacts does not just present

to what extent does human or natural forcings have in environmental change in the Holocene, and how accurately can they be detected and attributed? According to Oldfield and Dearing (2003), climatic and human induced changes are difficult to disentangle from one another, and this essay aims to explore why. At this point, it is important to define and outline the parameters of the essay. A Holocene perspective is adopted in this essay, which will include a discussion on the Anthropocene. This essay also aims to explore different aspects of the environment i.e. terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic realms, although there bias in literature favouring the terrestrial realm, and the dominant environmental problem being that of climate change. The following points will be discussed: recent environmental change, difficulty in detection and attribution, examples to illustrate the complex nature between climate-man- environment, and the role of research in addressing this problem.The product of Holocene environmental change presents a difficult task to unravel as it was subject to human influence, natural influence, earth processes, and all of their complex interactions and relationships (Oldfield and Dearing, 2003). In some instances, climate impacts are clear and distinct from human impacts, and in others, it cannot be assumed that either are the only factor at work. It must be noted that disentangling human from climate impacts does not just present a challenge during the Industrial Revolution and onwards; although from that point onwards it has become increasingly more complex. Common consensus among scientists exist that anthropogenic forcing contributed a minute role in comparison to climate during the late glacial and into the early Holocene (Dearing, 2006). Some of the first evidence for human activities became apparent from the early to mid – Holocene, with the change in human diet from hunting to the dependence on agriculture which was increasingly noted from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East (Zalasiewicz et al., 2011). Thereafter, about six thousand years ago agriculture, the clearance of forests for expansion and irrigation moved towards the North East (Zalasiewicz et al., 2011). This is clear in the preserved fossil pollen record. However, not so clear is the notion of deforestation leading to elevated CO? concentrations in the atmosphere preceding the Industrial Revolution (Zalasiewicz et al., 2011). Comparisons here cannot be made as the magnitude and exact causes cannot be confirmed. According to Steffen et al. (2007), research points to widespread human impact on the environment primarily through predation, modification of the land and the use of fire; dispelling the perception that pre-agricultural humans lived in harmony with their environment. Having said that, humans have been modifying the environment from the time of Homo habilis (Zalasiewics et al., 2011) and even though anthropogenic signals may have been clearly detected and attributed to anthropogenic forcing at all scales, Steffen et al. (2007) purports that humans in pre-industrial times, unlike modern humans did not possess the technology or the organisational capacity to match the domineering force of nature that was apparent in the early to mid-Holocene period. Zolitschka et al. (2003) adds that climatic influences may have been present for e.g. immediately following the Holocene climatic optimum, or in the course of the Little Ice Age (LIA) period. However, the transition where humans had a more heavy impact may mask the effect influence of climate making the signal invisible or negligible in comparison to the one left by humans in archival records for those periods. In agreement is Dearing (2006) who states that the transition of the environment from one of nature domination became one of human domination, which had profound impacts on the environment. Zolitschka et al. (2003) provides an example of clear human detection and attribution with land use and deforestation – in central Europe during the mid-Holocene climatic optimum, the region was vegetated with forest where changes in vegetation are picked up through proxies and archaeological artefacts (Zolitschka et al., 2003). An interesting point is made by Battarbee and Binney (2008) who also alludes that most of the unambiguous clear sources of evidence for past human activities are derive from Europe, yet Africa is the cradle of humankind and where people are most unlikely to adapt and cope with human and climate change impacts. In Europe, agricultural development, deforestation and pastoralism record with good taxonomic resolution of identification down to genera and species (Oldfield, 2008). In south-west Germany, in the Neolithic to early medieval period, detection of periodic agricultural development, deforestation and forest recovery/rejuvenation is clear. Zolitschka et al. (2003) emphasises that uncertainty arises when there is an overlap of climatic and human influence, and questions of coincidence arise. Efforts to disentangle impacts on the environment as suggested by Zolitschka et al. (2003) include precise chronologies together with archaeological, geoscientific investigations of paleoenvironmental conditions, and the use of models. Moving on to the late Holocene – here is where the lines of accurate detection and attribution of recent environmental change either to human, environmental or natural impacts are blurred. The Quaternary period is divided into the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs; however a third epoch may be considered i.e. the Anthropocene (Zalasiewics et al., 2011). Steffen et al. (2007) mentions that scientists have recognised that during the Holocene, human activity became a distinct driver of change. The formalisation of the new geological era/epoch – the Anthropocene is under great debate, and part of the reason is that contemporary environmental change is difficult to assign absolute causation. For Steffen et al. (2007), it is quite clear as to why this new phase in the geological record may be considered i.e. underpinning environmental change on a global scale can be attributed to anthropogenic drivers who alter the very fabric of the Earth. The Anthropocene would insinuate that the Earth has transitioned from the present interglacial state or natural geological epoch, to a state of human dominated and driven environmental change. To elaborate, Steffen et al. (2007) stresses that nature of human impacts on the environment are so pervasive and intense on the environment that they outshine the great forces of natural variability. The result is that the Earth is moving rapidly into (at least), a less biodiverse and forested state, and a much warmer, wetter and stormier state. Turner et al. (1990) classifies human impacts on the global environmental systems as either cumulative or systemic, where cumulative impacts are usually ignored or not adequately expressed and considered, yet have some of the most devastating impacts. A noteworthy point made by Zalasiewicz et al. (2011) is that intangible signals (chemical and biological) that humans left, are those that leave a more profound impact on the environment. Relatively recent environmental change can be observed in many forms, and not just climatic change, however climate change may serve to amplify certain environmental conditions or functional modes of the environment. Anderson et al. (2006) states that recent analyses of both palaeorecords and instrumental data show that human disturbances to the environment manifest in the form of atmospheric pollution, global warming, soil erosion, land cover changes, biological invasions, altered nutrient and biogeochemical cycles, UV flux, habitat fragmentation and demolition, among other changes. Over the past two hundred and fifty years, these disturbances have not changed ecosystem dynamics significantly, but have also altered the rates of change (Anderson et al., 2006). In a study conducted by Jones et al. (2013) for the detection of climate signals in a human disturbed catchment – the Petit Lac d’Annecy in France, results from cross correlation and spectral analyses indicated that human activities were dominant in influence the shaping of the catchment during the late Holocene. Less certain however, is the effect of palaeoclimate on the shaping and evolution of the Petit Lac d’Annecy. This can be due to the absence of historical records of climate in the ears of the catchment. Attempts were made to examine the extent to which palaeoclimate had, but this action was limited due to the difficulties in isolating within the proxy record, the climatic from the human imprint.