Humans Gobble One Quarter of Food Chain’s Foundation

February 19, 2008 • Farming Practices, News

Thanks to Maurizio Morabito for this article.

The original farmer probably did not have an outsized impact on the world. Scattering some seeds, guarding them and perhaps clearing a few other species of plants, this proto-agrarian would have been the first to harness the power of photosynthesis for humanitys benefit. Now, thousands of years later, modern agrarians—along with engineers, foresters and consumers—directly control 23.8 percent of all the world’s photosynthesis, according to a new analysis.

Using Food and Agriculture Organization statistics through the year 2000 on areas farmed, crops harvested and animals grazed—as well as models of the photosynthetic production of vegetation worldwide and global data on forested areas—ecologist Helmut Haberl of Klagenfurt University in Austria and his colleagues calculated the difference between the energy produced by plants in the absence of humans and the actual amount of photosynthetic energy available to ecosystems after humans have taken their share.

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