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Humans Just 0.01% of All Life but Have Destroyed 83% of Wild Mammals

Author: Damian Carrington
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Biology
Resource Types:
  • Article
  • Data
  • This powerful article describes recent findings about the large impact of humans on global biodiversity. 
  • The results are striking and the infographics that accompany the article help illustrate the massive declines in wild mammals, marine mammals, wild birds, and plants. 
Teaching Tips


  • The graphics are very useful in understanding and visualizing the data.
  • It may prompt students think about ethics, sustainability, and the rights of other species to exist.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It might be helpful to use pie charts to show the distribution of biomass for mammals (humans, livestock, and wild animals) and birds (wild vs. livestock).


  • History and social studies classes could use this article to discuss how the Industrial Revolution, the development of Germ Theory, or advancements made in the 20th century affected our ability to impact biodiversity on a global scale.
  • Science and biology classes could use this resource when discussing nutrient cycling, ecosystems, land use, agriculture, deforestation, and mass extinction events.
  • Other resources on this topic include Are We Living in the Sixth Extinction?, Biodiversity and Humans, this interactive data resource about agriculture, and this Khan Academy video about biodiversity and extinction.
Scientist Notes
This Guardian article discusses a 2018 research paper that estimated the total mass of all living organisms on Earth and shares some of the findings. This resource is an unusual look at life on our planet and presents some unexpected facts. For instance, farmed poultry make up 70% of the mass of all birds on Earth, with wild birds making up only 30%. Additionally, livestock make up 60% of the mass of all mammals on Earth, with humans making up 36% and wild mammals only 4%. This unusual metric could provide a good thought piece for students. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
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  • This is a stunning article with helpful images.
    8 months ago