The biomass of humans presents ecological risk

A study published today reminds us that the energy requirement of species at each trophic level in an ecological pyramid is a function of the number of organisms and their average mass. In 2005, global adult human biomass was approximately 287 million tonnes, of which 15 million tonnes were due to overweight (BMI > 25), a mass equivalent to that of 242 million people of average body mass (5% of global human biomass). Biomass due to obesity was 3.5 million tonnes, the mass equivalent of 56 million people of average body mass (1.2% of human biomass).

North America has the highest average body mass of any continent (80.7 kg). In North America one tonne of human biomass corresponds to 12 adults. More than 70% of the North American population is overweight and biomass due to obesity is 1.2 million tonnes. North America has 6% of the world’s population but 34% of world biomass due to obesity.

The study concludes that global trends of increasing body mass will have important resource implications and that unchecked, increasing BMI could have the same implications for world energy requirements as an extra 473 million people. Tackling population fatness may be critical to world food security and ecological sustainability.

Published in the online peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health, an abstract and a link to the full article may be found at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/439/abstract

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