Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass

Emily Elhacham, Liad Ben-Uri, Jonathan Grozovski, Yinon M. Bar-On, Ron Milo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations

Abstract

Humanity has become a dominant force in shaping the face of Earth1–9. An emerging question is how the overall material output of human activities compares to the overall natural biomass. Here we quantify the human-made mass, referred to as ‘anthropogenic mass’, and compare it to the overall living biomass on Earth, which currently equals approximately 1.1 teratonnes10,11. We find that Earth is exactly at the crossover point; in the year 2020 (± 6), the anthropogenic mass, which has recently doubled roughly every 20 years, will surpass all global living biomass. On average, for each person on the globe, anthropogenic mass equal to more than his or her bodyweight is produced every week. This quantification of the human enterprise gives a mass-based quantitative and symbolic characterization of the human-induced epoch of the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-444
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume588
Issue number7838
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

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