Our planet is home to approximately 8.7 million species, about a quarter of which live in water. Comprehending numbers this big is not easy, and therefore we often fail to appreciate the breadth of this incredible diversity of life on Earth. Drawing from research by Bar-On et al., the Visual Capitalist decided to do just that: to help us fully grasp this scale, by breaking down the total composition of the living world in terms of its biomass, including where we humans fit into this picture. (Click image to enlarge)
The 320,000 species of plants make up the overwhelming majority of biomass on Earth. Their vital photosynthetic processes prevent entire ecosystems from falling apart.
Fungi is the third most abundant type of life on our planet. So far, about 148,000 fungi species have been identified by scientists, but there may be millions more.
Surprisingly, animals make up only 0.47% of the entire biomass.
Beyond animals, plants, and fungi, there are an estimated trillion species of microbes invisible to the naked eye – and only about 0.001% of them has been discovered so far. Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that there are 5 nonillion bacteria on Earth (that’s a five with 30 zeros after it). And then we haven’t talked about protists, archae and viruses…
Despite us making up such a small part of Earth’s biomass, human activities are having a devastating impact on the rest of it. Our attempts to turn Earth’s significant forest cover into agricultural and industrial land has resulted in a serious decline of biodiversity in virtually every region of the planet.
Will we be able to reverse the far-reaching processes we have initiated willingly or unwillingly, before it’s too late?