Plant consumption rising significantly as population grows and economies develop

January 27, 2011 • Farming Practices, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Joe Bish for this article.

See a related article at These findings are more optimistic than research two decades ago by Stanford biologist Peter Vitousek, which found that, at that time, humans were appropriating 40 percent of the products of photosynthesis. Sanderson and others have classified up to 83% of the global terrestrial biosphere as being under direct human influence, based on geographic proxies such as human population density, settlements, roads, agriculture and the like; another study, by Hannah et al., estimates that about 36% of the Earth’s bioproductive surface is “entirely dominated by man”.

For more on this research, see and

Humans are consuming an increasing amount of the Earth’s total annual land plant production, new NASA research has found.

As the human population continues to grow and more societies develop modern economies, this rate of consumption is increasing both as a whole and on a per capita basis globally. In addition to as food, plants are consumed for paper, clothing, livestock feed, firewood, biofuels, building and packaging materials, among other uses.

A NASA research group led by Marc Imhoff at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., first quantified this global consumption in 2004, when the group found that in 1995 humans consumed 20 percent of all the land plant material produced that year.

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