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The 0.01 Percent on Top of the Food Chain


This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Florian Zandt


For the species considered to be the most advanced, humanity's imprint on the world is minuscule – at least concerning its share in total biomass. As a report included in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from 2018 shows, humans only make up 0.01 percent of the globe's living matter measured in gigatonnes of carbon.


Unsurprisingly, plants have by far the highest share of living biomass on Earth with roughly 82 percent or 450 gigatonnes of carbon, followed by bacteria and single-cell microbes with 14 and fungi with 2 percent. Even in terms of animal biomass, humans contribute a relatively low amount. Their biomass weight of 0.06 gigatonnes amounts to only 2.5 percent of the weight of all animals, with arthropods and fish making up about 71 percent of the two gigatonnes of carbon animals are contributing to the total biomass.


While humanity's weight might seem insignificant in the bigger picture, the marks it left and continues to leave on the world are not. Since 1850, humans have released approximately 2,500 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, furthering climate change and the extinction of several species around the globe. The IUCN Red List, for example, lists over 40 percent of amphibian species as being on the verge of extinction, followed by 34 percent of conifers, 33 percent of reef-building corals and about a quarter of all currently existing mammal species.


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