Human-made materials may now outweigh all living things on Earth, study finds

According to the report, the total man-made mass on Earth is estimated to be roughly 1.1 teratons, surpassing the overall weight of the biomass on Earth.

Human civilization has taken a giant leap in the technological sector in the last few decades, which undoubtedly has boosted material production worldwide. While humans pace up the consumption of natural resources at alarming rates, a new study reveals that human-made materials may now outweigh all of our planet’s biomass.

The study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature, was led by a team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. The human-made mass, also known as anthropogenic mass, has doubled in the last 2 decades by weighing about 1.1 teratons, according to the analysis. 

According to CNN, the researchers segregated human-made objects into six main categories: concrete, aggregates (including materials like gravel), bricks, asphalt, metals, and other materials which include plastic, wood used for construction and paper, and glass. Among these, concrete, aggregates, bricks, and asphalt are dominating, as they are widely used in foundations for modern buildings, roads, and other structures. 

The researchers also noted that the class of biomass, which includes all living things, was highly dominated by plants (about 90%), followed by bacteria, fungi, protists, and animals, which also includes human beings.

The findings of the study have shown that human activity has affected the planet in a way that the global biomass nearly halved, since the first agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago. At the beginning of the 20th century, man-made objects were only about 3% of the total biomass. Land activities like deforestation and other shifts in land use have adversely affected the overall plant mass and other activities like hunting and overfishing have also resulted in the shrinkage of biomass.

Moreover, experts evaluate that man-made materials are being produced at the rate of 30 gigatons per year, and at this pace, the man-made mass will likely exceed 3 teratons by 2040. “The study provides a symbolic and mass-based quantitative characterization of the Anthropocene – the geological age of ‘the era of humanity’,” stated Emily Elhacham and Ron Milo, two of the authors of the study.




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