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      The biomass distribution on Earth

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          The composition of the biosphere is a fundamental question in biology, yet a global quantitative account of the biomass of each taxon is still lacking. We assemble a census of the biomass of all kingdoms of life. This analysis provides a holistic view of the composition of the biosphere and allows us to observe broad patterns over taxonomic categories, geographic locations, and trophic modes.

          Abstract

          A census of the biomass on Earth is key for understanding the structure and dynamics of the biosphere. However, a global, quantitative view of how the biomass of different taxa compare with one another is still lacking. Here, we assemble the overall biomass composition of the biosphere, establishing a census of the ≈550 gigatons of carbon (Gt C) of biomass distributed among all of the kingdoms of life. We find that the kingdoms of life concentrate at different locations on the planet; plants (≈450 Gt C, the dominant kingdom) are primarily terrestrial, whereas animals (≈2 Gt C) are mainly marine, and bacteria (≈70 Gt C) and archaea (≈7 Gt C) are predominantly located in deep subsurface environments. We show that terrestrial biomass is about two orders of magnitude higher than marine biomass and estimate a total of ≈6 Gt C of marine biota, doubling the previous estimated quantity. Our analysis reveals that the global marine biomass pyramid contains more consumers than producers, thus increasing the scope of previous observations on inverse food pyramids. Finally, we highlight that the mass of humans is an order of magnitude higher than that of all wild mammals combined and report the historical impact of humanity on the global biomass of prominent taxa, including mammals, fish, and plants.

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          Most cited references39

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          Primary Production of the Biosphere: Integrating Terrestrial and Oceanic Components

          C Field (1998)
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            Colloquium paper: are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? A view from the world of amphibians.

            Many scientists argue that we are either entering or in the midst of the sixth great mass extinction. Intense human pressure, both direct and indirect, is having profound effects on natural environments. The amphibians--frogs, salamanders, and caecilians--may be the only major group currently at risk globally. A detailed worldwide assessment and subsequent updates show that one-third or more of the 6,300 species are threatened with extinction. This trend is likely to accelerate because most amphibians occur in the tropics and have small geographic ranges that make them susceptible to extinction. The increasing pressure from habitat destruction and climate change is likely to have major impacts on narrowly adapted and distributed species. We show that salamanders on tropical mountains are particularly at risk. A new and significant threat to amphibians is a virulent, emerging infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, which appears to be globally distributed, and its effects may be exacerbated by global warming. This disease, which is caused by a fungal pathogen and implicated in serious declines and extinctions of >200 species of amphibians, poses the greatest threat to biodiversity of any known disease. Our data for frogs in the Sierra Nevada of California show that the fungus is having a devastating impact on native species, already weakened by the effects of pollution and introduced predators. A general message from amphibians is that we may have little time to stave off a potential mass extinction.
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              Global distribution of microbial abundance and biomass in subseafloor sediment.

              The global geographic distribution of subseafloor sedimentary microbes and the cause(s) of that distribution are largely unexplored. Here, we show that total microbial cell abundance in subseafloor sediment varies between sites by ca. five orders of magnitude. This variation is strongly correlated with mean sedimentation rate and distance from land. Based on these correlations, we estimate global subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance to be 2.9⋅10(29) cells [corresponding to 4.1 petagram (Pg) C and ∼0.6% of Earth's total living biomass]. This estimate of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance is roughly equal to previous estimates of total microbial abundance in seawater and total microbial abundance in soil. It is much lower than previous estimates of subseafloor sedimentary microbial abundance. In consequence, we estimate Earth's total number of microbes and total living biomass to be, respectively, 50-78% and 10-45% lower than previous estimates.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A
                pnas
                pnas
                PNAS
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
                National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                19 June 2018
                21 May 2018
                21 May 2018
                : 115
                : 25
                : 6506-6511
                Affiliations
                [1] aDepartment of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science , 76100 Rehovot, Israel;
                [2] bDepartment of Physics, California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA 91125;
                [3] cDivision of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA 91125
                Author notes
                1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: ron.milo@ 123456weizmann.ac.il .

                Edited by Paul G. Falkowski, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, and approved April 13, 2018 (received for review July 3, 2017)

                Author contributions: Y.M.B.-O., R.P., and R.M. designed research; Y.M.B.-O. and R.M. performed research; Y.M.B.-O. and R.M. analyzed data; and Y.M.B.-O., R.P., and R.M. wrote the paper.

                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8477-609X
                http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1641-2299
                Article
                201711842
                10.1073/pnas.1711842115
                6016768
                29784790
                9b6be331-e4d9-42f8-8bab-c97bc87f26c0
                Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

                This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

                History
                Page count
                Pages: 6
                Categories
                Biological Sciences
                Systems Biology
                From the Cover

                ecology,biomass,biosphere,quantitative biology
                ecology, biomass, biosphere, quantitative biology

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