While it is common for a nation to take a census, researchers have decided to take a census of all life on Earth to see where each species stands.
The Findings From Studying Biomass On Earth
There are currently over 7.4 billion people on Earth, but humans only make up about 0.01 percent of all life on the planet. Meanwhile, 82 percent of all living things on Earth are plants, which means there are about 7,500 plants for every one human.
The findings were published on May 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Despite representing such a small percentage of life on Earth, humans have caused the loss of 83 percent of wild animals and nearly half of all plants. Almost half of the animals on Earth have been lost in the last 50 years.
Bacteria, on the other hand, make up 13 percent of life, with all other non-plant creatures equal to just 5 percent of life.
"I was shocked to find there wasn't already a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass," said study author and professor Ron Milo.
Wild poultry comprises just 30 percent of life, compared to 70 percent of birds who are farmed poultry. In fact, 60 percent of all mammals are livestock. Among mammals, only 36 percent were humans. Just 4 percent of mammals live in the wild.
How Did Researchers Discover The Census Of Earth?
To make this census of life on Earth, researchers studied the biomass of different lifeforms from many studies. They factored in aspects such as geography and environmental issues to look at the different examples of life on Earth. The researchers used gene sequencing and carbon to examine the data.
Before finalizing the data, researchers removed water out of the equation and only focused on dry carbon. There are, however, some uncertainties within the research, particularly for bacteria under the surface.
What Do These Census Findings Mean?
The are two major key points from this study. First, plants make up a very large percentage of mass on Earth, even after factoring all of the plants that humans have used. Second, this study sheds light on how humans have consumed natural resources at a colossal level, which includes the consumption of animals and plants.
"I would hope people would take this [work] as part of their world view of how they consume," said Milo. "I have not become vegetarian, but I do take the environmental impact into my decision making, so it helps me think, do I want to choose beef or poultry or use tofu instead?"