According to a new scientific study, the approximate 7.6 billion human beings that populate our planet represent only 0.01% of all living beings on Earth. Despite this, we have led to the disappearance of 83% of wildlife (including 80% of marine mammals and 15% of fish). Furthermore, our civilization has cut plant biomass in half.
“This inadvertent culling has had a massive effect on the overall biosphere of our planet, leading to a situation where scientists say we’re now in the midst of a mass extinction event that is almost without precedent,” reports Science Alert.
Did you know…? Mankind is responsible for the disappearance of 83% of wild animals and half of the plants on Earth.
In other words, if you would put humans into a category from lightweight to heavyweight, humans would barely make the lightweight category.
The 7.6 billion human beings that populate our planet represent only 0.01% of all living beings on Earth, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But despite this, we’ve managed to a damn good job at destroying all other things on Earth.
“I would hope this gives people a panorama on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on planet Earth,” biologist Ron Milo from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel told The Guardian.
According to the study, since the beginning of civilization, humanity has led to the disappearance of 83% of wildlife (including 80% of marine mammals and 15% of fish). Furthermore, our civilization has cut plant biomass in half, favoring at the same time a superabundance of domestic animals – which outnumber wild animals by a ratio of 14 to 1.
“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” said Milo.
This scientific work constitutes a first complete census of life forms on the planet (the so-called biomass) and is based on the carbon footprint left by all living beings.
Among Milo’s conclusions, although bacteria are one of the most abundant forms of life (13% of the total), they are not, as is often thought, the ones that have the most presence.
The number one position belongs, by far, to plants, since they represent 82% of all living matter on Earth.
The rest, from insects and fungi to fish and mammals, account for only 5% of the world’s biomass.
“When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino,” Milo told The Guardian. “However, if I was trying to give them a more genuine sense of the world, it would be a cow next to a cow next to a cow and then a chicken.”
Milo and his colleagues spent more than three years gathering and combining scientific literature on our planets biomass, in order to produce the most up-to-date and comprehensive estimate on the mass of all the kingdoms of life, reports the Guardian.
“We know that some viruses can cause cancer in humans by changing the environment that they live in — in their case, human cells — to make it more suitable for themselves,” said study co-author and postdoctoral researcher Tuul Sepp in a statement. “We are doing the same thing. We are changing the environment to be more fitting for ourselves, while these changes are producing a negative impact on many species on many different levels, including the probability of developing cancer.”
As noted by scientists in the paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, humans are altering the environment in such a way that it causes cancer in wild animals.
Example of this influence is the pollution in oceans, rivers, and lakes, radiation that leaks from nuclear plants, and a dramatic exposure to pesticides on farmlands and artificial light pollution.
“In humans, it’s also known that light at night can cause hormonal changes and lead to cancer,” Sepp says.
“Wild animals living close to cities and roads face the same problem — there is no darkness anymore. For example, in birds, their hormones — the same that are linked to cancer in humans — are affected by light at night. So, the next step would be to study if it also affects their probability of developing tumors.”
“To me, the saddest thing is that we already know what to do. We should not destroy the habitats of wild animals, pollute the environment, and feed wild animals human food,” says Sepp. “The fact that everybody already knows what to do, but we are not doing it, makes it seem even more hopeless.
“But I see hope in education. Our kids are learning a lot more about conservation issues than our parents did. So, there is hope that the decision-makers of the future will be more mindful of the anthropogenic effects on the environment.”
Featured Image Credit: UMASS