EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Artificial radionuclides, mercury, lead, and oil components in sediment cores as markers of the Anthropocene Epoch

Yury Fedorov, Andrey Kuznetsov, Irinageo Dotsenko, and Anna Mikhailenko
Yury Fedorov et al.
  • Southern Federal University , Institute of Earth Science, Department of Physical Geography, Ecology and Nature Protection, Russian Federation (

The majority of researches of the Working group on the ‘Anthropocene’ of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) voted for the recognition of the Anthropocene as a formal chrono-stratigraphic unit characterized by profound alterations of several conditions and processes on Earth by human impact. It is also proposed to place its beginning and the end of the Holocene epoch in the mid-20th century, coinciding with the launch of nuclear weapon tests [1]. In contemporary sediment cores of the Sea of ​​Azov, the Don and the Kuban rivers, we will distinguish a "layer of anthropogenic impact", meaning the layer containing considerable quantities of technogenic material and (or) pollutants [2]. To reveal the chronology of its formation, its thickness, and boundaries, it is proposed to use the results of layer-by-layer determining of the Cs-137 and Am-241 specific activities, as well as the content of oil components, lead and mercury in the bottom sediments of the water bodies. The upper Cs-137 peak formed due to the Chernobyl accident and sometimes the lower Cs-137 and Am-241 peaks related to the global radioactive fallout in the 1950s and 1960s have been detected [3]. The decrease of mercury, lead, and oil components concentrations from the upper to the lower parts of sediment cores has also been observed. The results of analysis of technogenic radionuclides and priority pollutants distribution have proved that since the 1950s and 1960s in the bottom sediments of the Sea of ​​Azov and water bodies of its basin the “layer of anthropogenic impact" has been being formed. Its thickness varies from 20 to 50 cm and may even exceed 50 cm in areas characterized by high sedimentation rates. It has been found out that in the mid-20th century the ecosystem of the Sea of ​​Azov began to suffer from intense anthropogenic pressure, which reached its maximum in the 1970s and 1980s. It is proposed to consider the studied pollutants (technogenic radionuclides, mercury, lead, and oil components) as a possible set of priority markers of the Anthropocene epoch. The Holocene - Anthropocene boundary should be placed at the base of the identified “layer of anthropogenic impact”.


The research was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project no. 19-05-50097.



[1] Working Group on the ‘Anthropocene’. Results of binding vote by AWG. (last accessed 17 January 2021).

[2] Kuznetsov A.N., Fedorov Yu.A., and Yaroslavtsev V.M. (2018) Technogenic and natural radionuclides in the bottom sediments of the Sea of Azov: regularities of distribution and application to the study of pollutants accumulation chronology. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 107, 012063.

[3] Fedorov Yu.A., Kuznetsov A.N., and Trofimov M.E. (2008) Sedimentation rates in the Sea of Azov inferred from Cs-137 and Am-241 specific activity. Doklady Earth Sciences, vol. 423, no. 1, pp. 1333-1334.

How to cite: Fedorov, Y., Kuznetsov, A., Dotsenko, I., and Mikhailenko, A.: Artificial radionuclides, mercury, lead, and oil components in sediment cores as markers of the Anthropocene Epoch, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14484,, 2021.