Humans Account for 0.01% of the Life on Earth, But We’ve Made Quite a Negative Impact

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Last week, a study was published in PNAS and tried to take a biomass census of the entire Planet. It discovered that all life on earth is about 550 gigatons of carbon (GT C). Most of that mass is plants.

The study contains all the planet’s life forms, grouped into categories. There is the kingdom group, which includes animals, archaea (single-cell organism), fungi. Then, there are marine invertebrates, and livestock, which are grouped into the fine-toothed category. The last one includes viruses, which although are not quite living, they behave that way.

Out of all 550 GT C on Earth, 450 GT C are plants. Next, there is bacteria – 70 GT C, fungi – 12 GT C, archaea – 7 GT C, and protists (algae) – 4 GT C.

How about the rest of the animals and humans?

The study shows that all animals on the land, sea and in the air, be it vertebrate and non-vertebrate, are only 2 GT C. Humans are only 0.06 GT C, accounting for just 0.01% of carbon weight on this planet. We account less than roundworms or mollusks, and almost anything else which is alive.

Carbon mass is used to calculate all living things on the planet, and how it is distributed. It is independent of water content, and it’s the least variable measurement, being the perfect measurement to estimate all the living things on Earth. However, it’s not an exact measurement, but it creates an idea of how we position on this planet, considering our numbers.

The study also found that the biomass of livestock is way bigger than of wild mammals and it’s the same for domesticated birds compared to the wild ones. If we combine livestock, domesticated birds, and humans, we become a greater group, outweighing all non-fish vertebrates.

Reports of the include a timeline, showing that since the human civilization started, the planet lost 83% of the wild mammals, 80% of marine mammals, 50% of plants and 15% of fish.

We might be a tiny part of this Earth, but looking at these last numbers, we had quite an impact.

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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