Humans Wiped Out Two-Thirds of Wildlife in the Last 50 Years

Humans have wiped out almost all the wild mammals on Earth to make room domesticated livestock

A new study finds that even though humans make up only .01% of the biomass of all living things on earth, we have done a disproportionate amount of destruction to other life forms,

Since the dawn of civilization we’ve destroyed 83% of wild mammals and half of all plant species.

The study is the first to estimate the total weight of every class of living creature.

Plants and bacteria are the most abundant lifeforms on Earth, representing 82 and 13 percent of all biomass, respectively. Animals and fungi make up the remaining 5 percent of the world’s biomass.

A staggering proportion of those animals are domesticated, as humans have wiped out the vast majority of wild animals, the study found.

Cattle farm in Brazil. Credit: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more bleak for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock (mostly cattle and pigs) 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

Credit: The Guardian

The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider Earth’s 6th mass extinction. About half of all Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years.

“It is definitely striking, our disproportionate place on Earth,” Professor Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the study, told The Guardian.

“When I do a puzzle with my daughters, there is usually an elephant next to a giraffe next to a rhino. 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.”

Despite humanity’s huge impact, we are dwarfed by other types of life in terms of weight. Viruses alone have a combined mass three times that of humans, as do worms. The total mass of fish is 12 times greater than that of people, and the mass of fungi 200 times as large.