(CBS Local) – Humans make up only a tiny minority of the life on Earth, however a new study claims people are responsible for wiping out more than half of the planet’s lifeforms.
- A study of the Earth’s biomass finds that 80 percent of the planet is made of plants
- Humans represent just 0.01 percent of life on Earth
- Since humans arrived, the study says they have helped wipe out 85 percent of mammals
According to a study of the Earth’s living “biomass,” humans account for a mere 0.01 percent of the planet’s life. Mammals in general made up only a small portion of the planet when compared to plants, which accounted for over 80 percent of Earth’s biomass. Mammals were even overwhelmed by bacteria (13 percent) and fungi (two percent).
The scientists, who published the results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the carbon content of the Earth to figure out what the actual “kingdom” of life looked like across time. Despite the results, researchers say humans have radically affected the balance of the planet since arriving over 300,000 years ago.
The study claims that humans have contributed to cutting the carbon weight of mammals by a staggering 85 percent and plants by nearly 50 percent in that time. “I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” lead researcher Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel said, via The Guardian.
According to Milo and his team, present day mammals are mostly made up of livestock, not wild animals. “When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino,” Milo added. “But if I was trying to give them a more realistic sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”
The study of the Earth’s changing biomass also referenced the possibility of another mass extinction event, which fellow scientists recently warned could occur by the year 2100.
“Even though short in numbers, we have managed to throw a lot of sand in the air and mess up a lot of things,” Harvard biologist EO Wilson said, via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.