All the Biomass on Earth in One Massive Visualization
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All the Biomass of Earth, in One Graphic

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Visualizing All the Biomass on Earth

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All the Biomass of Earth, in One Graphic

Our planet supports approximately 8.7 million species, of which over a quarter live in water.

But humans can have a hard time comprehending numbers this big, so it can be difficult to really appreciate the breadth of this incredible diversity of life on Earth.

In order to fully grasp this scale, we draw from research by Bar-On et al. to break down the total composition of the living world, in terms of its biomass, and where we fit into this picture.

Why Carbon?

A “carbon-based life form” might sound like something out of science fiction, but that’s what we and all other living things are.

Carbon is used in complex molecules and compounds—making it an essential part of our biology. That’s why biomass, or the mass of organisms, is typically measured in terms of carbon makeup.

In our visualization, one cube represents 1 million metric tons of carbon, and every thousand of these cubes is equal to 1 Gigaton (Gt C).

Here’s how the numbers stack up in terms of biomass of life on Earth:

TaxonMass (Gt C)% of total
Plants45082.4%
Bacteria7012.8%
Fungi122.2%
Archaea71.3%
Protists40.70%
Animals2.5890.47%
Viruses0.20.04%
Total545.8100.0%

Plants make up the overwhelming majority of biomass on Earth. There are 320,000 species of plants, and their vital photosynthetic processes keep entire ecosystems from falling apart.

Fungi is the third most abundant type of life—and although 148,000 species of fungi have been identified by scientists, it’s estimated there may be millions more.

Animals: A Drop in the Biomass Ocean

Although animals make up only 0.47% of all biomass, there are many sub-categories within them that are worth exploring further.

TaxonMass (Gt C)% of Animal Biomass
Arthropods (Marine)1.038.6%
Fish0.727.0%
Arthropods (Terrestrial)0.27.7%
Annelids0.27.7%
Mollusks0.27.7%
Livestock0.13.9%
Cnidarians0.13.9%
Humans0.062.3%
Nematodes0.020.8%
Wild mammals0.0070.3%
Wild birds0.0020.1%
Animals (Total)2.589100.0%

Arthropods

Arthropods are the largest group of invertebrates, and include up to 10 million species across insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.

Chordates

The category of chordates includes wild mammals, wild birds, livestock, humans, and fish. Across 65,000 living species in total, nearly half are bony fish like piranhas, salmon, or seahorses.

Surprisingly, humans contribute a relatively small mass compared to the rest of the Animal Kingdom. People make up only 0.01% of all the biomass on the planet.

Annelids, Mollusks, Cnidarians, and Nematodes

Annelids are segmented worms like earthworms or leeches, with over 22,000 living species on this planet. After arthropods, mollusks are the second-largest group of invertebrates with over 85,000 living species. Of these, 80% are snails and slugs.

Cnidarians are a taxon of aquatic invertebrates covering 11,000 species across various marine environments. These include jellyfish, sea anemone, and even corals.

Nematodes are commonly referred to as roundworms. These sturdy critters have successfully adapted to virtually every kind of ecosystem, from polar regions to oceanic trenches. They’ve even survived traveling into space and back.

The Microscopic Rest

Beyond these animals, plants, and fungi, there are an estimated trillion species of microbes invisible to the naked eye—and we’ve probably only discovered 0.001% of them so far.

Bacteria

Bacteria were one of the first life forms to appear on Earth, and classified as prokaryotes (nucleus-less). Today, they’re the second-largest composition of biomass behind plants. Perhaps this is because these organisms can be found living literally everywhere—from your gut to deep in the Earth’s crust.

Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that there are 5 nonillion bacteria on the planet—that’s a five with 30 zeros after it.

Protists and Archaea

Protists are mostly unicellular, but are more complex than bacteria as they contain a nucleus. They’re also essential components of the food chain.

Archaea are single-celled microorganisms that are similar to bacteria but differ in compositions. They thrive in extreme environments too, from high temperatures above 100°C (212°F) in geysers to extremely saline, acidic, or alkaline conditions.

Viruses

Viruses are the most fascinating category of biomass. They have been described as “organisms at the edge of life,” as they are not technically living things. They’re much smaller than bacteria—however, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, their microscopic effects cannot be understated.

The Earth’s Biomass, Under Threat

Human activities are having an ongoing impact on Earth’s biomass.

For example, we’ve lost significant forest cover in the past decades, to make room for agricultural land use and livestock production. One result of this is that biodiversity in virtually every region is on the decline.

Will we be able to reverse this trajectory and preserve the diversity of all the biomass on Earth, before it’s too late?

Editor’s note: This visualization was inspired by the work of Javier Zarracina for Vox from a few years ago. Our aim with the above piece was to recognize that while great communication needs no reinvention, it can be enhanced and reimagined to increase editorial impact and help spread knowledge to an even greater share of the population.

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Misc

Visualized: The Most Googled Countries

This series of visualizations uses Google trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022.

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Visualized: The Most Googled Countries, Worldwide

View a higher resolution version of this network diagram.

Analyzing societal trends can teach us a lot about a population’s cultural fabric.

And since Google makes up more than 90% of internet searches outside of the Great Firewall, studying its usage is one of the best resources for modern social research.

This series of visualizations by Anders Sundell uses Google Trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022. These graphics provide thought-provoking insight into different cultural similarities and geopolitical dynamics.

A Quick Note on Methodology

The visualization above shows the most googled country in each nation around the world over the last couple of decades.

For example, the arrow pointing from Canada to the United States means that, between 2004 and 2022, people in Canada had more searches about the U.S. than any other country globally.

And since this study only looked at interest in other countries, queries of countries searching for themselves were not included in the data.

Finally, each country’s circle is scaled relative to its search interest, meaning the bigger the circle, the more countries pointing to it (and searching for it).

The Top Googled Countries Overall

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the most googled country on the list, ranking first place in 45 of the 190 countries included in the dataset.

CountryTop Googled Country
🇦🇩​ Andorra🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇪​ The United Arab Emirates 🇮🇳 India
🇦🇫​ Afghanistan🇮🇷 Iran
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇱 Albania🇮🇹 Italy
🇦🇲 Armenia🇷🇺 Russia
🇦🇴 Angola🇧🇷 Brazil
🇦🇷 Argentina🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇹 Austria🇩🇪 Germany
🇦🇺 Australia🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan🇹🇷 Turkey
🏴󠁢󠁡󠁢󠁩󠁨󠁿 Bosnia and Herzegovina🇷🇴 Romania
🇧🇧 Barbados🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇧🇩 Bangladesh🇮🇳 India
🇧🇪 Belgium🇫🇷 France
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso🇫🇷 France
🇧🇬 Bulgaria🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇭 Bahrain🇮🇳 India
🇧🇮 Burundi🇫🇷 France
🇧🇯 Benin🇫🇷 France
🇧🇳 Brunei🇲🇾 Malaysia
🇧🇴 Bolivia🇦🇷 Argentina
🇧🇷 Brazil🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇸 The Bahamas 🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇹 Bhutan🇮🇳 India
🇧🇼 Botswana🇿🇦 South Africa
🇧🇾 Belarus🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇿 Belize🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇦 Canada🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo🇫🇷 France
🇨🇫 The Central African Republic🇫🇷 France
🇨🇬 The Congo🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo
🇨🇭 Switzerland🇩🇪 Germany
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire🇫🇷 France
🇨🇱 Chile🇦🇷 Argentina
🇨🇲 Cameroon🇫🇷 France
🇨🇳 China🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇴 Colombia🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇷 Costa Rica 🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇺 Cuba🇪🇸​ Spain
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇾 Cyprus🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇨🇿 Czechia🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇪 Germany🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇯 Djibouti🇫🇷 France
🇩🇰 Denmark🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇲 Dominica🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇴 The Dominican Republic🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇿 Algeria🇫🇷 France
🇪🇨 Ecuador🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇪 Estonia🇷🇺 Russia
🇪🇬 Egypt🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇪🇷 Eritrea🇪🇹 Ethiopia
🇪🇸 Spain🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇹 Ethiopia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇮 Finland🇸🇪 Sweden
🇫🇯 Fiji🇦🇺 Australia
🇫🇲 Micronesia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇷 France🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇦 Gabon🇫🇷 France
🇬🇧 United Kingdom🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇩 Grenada🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇪 Georgia🇷🇺 Russia
🇬🇭 Ghana🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇲 Gambia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇳 Guinea🇫🇷 France
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea🇪🇸​ Spain
🇬🇷 Greece🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇹 Guatemala🇸🇻 El Salvador
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau🇵🇹 Portugal
🇬🇾 Guyana🇮🇳 India
🇭🇳 Honduras🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇷 Croatia🇩🇪 Germany
🇭🇹 Haiti 🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇺 Hungary🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇩 Indonesia🇯🇵 Japan
🇮🇪 Ireland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇱 Israel🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇳 India🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇶 Iraq🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇷 Iran 🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇸 Iceland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇹 Italy🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇲 Jamaica🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇴 Jordan🇪🇬 Egypt
🇯🇵 Japan🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇪 Kenya🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇰🇭 Cambodia🇹🇭 Thailand
🇰🇮 Kiribati🇫🇯 Fiji
🇰🇲 Comoros🇫🇷 France
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇵 North Korea🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇷 South Korea🇯🇵 Japan
🇰🇼 Kuwait🇮🇳 India
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇦 Laos🇹🇭 Thailand
🇱🇧 Lebanon🇸🇾 Syria
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein🇨🇭 Switzerland
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka🇮🇳 India
🇱🇷 Liberia🇺🇸 The United States
🇱🇸 Lesotho🇿🇦 South Africa
🇱🇹 Lithuania🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇺 Luxembourg🇫🇷 France
🇱🇻 Latvia🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇾 Libya🇪🇬 Egypt
🇲🇦 Morocco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇨 Monaco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇩 Moldova 🇷🇺 Russia
🇲🇪 Montenegro🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇬​ Madagascar🇫🇷 France
🇲🇰 Republic of North Macedonia🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇱 Mali🇫🇷 France
🇲🇲 Myanmar🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇳 Mongolia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇷 Mauritania🇫🇷 France
🇲🇹 Malta🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇲🇺 Mauritius🇮🇳 India
🇲🇻 Maldives🇮🇳 India
🇲🇼 Malawi🇿🇦 South Africa
🇲🇽 Mexico🇺🇸 The United States
🇲🇾 Malaysia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇿 Mozambique🇧🇷 Brazil
🇳🇪 The Niger🇫🇷 France
🇳🇬 Nigeria🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇮 Nicaragua🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇱 The Netherlands🇩🇪 Germany
🇳🇴 Norway🇸🇪 Sweden
🇳🇵 Nepal🇮🇳 India
🇳🇿 New Zealand🇦🇺 Australia
🇴🇲 Oman🇮🇳 India
🇵🇦 Panama🇺🇸 The United States
🇵🇪 Peru🇪🇸​ Spain
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea🇦🇺 Australia
🇵🇭 The Philippines🇯🇵 Japan
🇵🇰 Pakistan🇮🇳 India
🇵🇱 Poland🇩🇪 Germany
🇵🇸 Palestine🇮🇱 Israel
🇵🇹 Portugal🇧🇷 Brazil
🇵🇾 Paraguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇶🇦 Qatar🇮🇳 India
🇷🇴 Romania🇮🇹 Italy
🇷🇸 Serbia🇽🇰 Kosovo
🇷🇺 Russia🇺🇸 The United States
🇷🇼 Rwanda🇺🇬 Uganda
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands🇦🇺 Australia
🇸🇨 Seychelles🇮🇳 India
🇸🇩 Sudan 🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇪 Sweden🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇬 Singapore🇯🇵 Japan
🇸🇮 Slovenia🇭🇷 Croatia
🇸🇰 Slovakia🇨🇿 Czechia
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone🇬🇳 Guinea
🇸🇲 San Marino 🇮🇹 Italy
🇸🇳 Senegal🇫🇷 France
🇸🇴 Somalia🇮🇳 India
🇸🇷 Suriname🇳🇱 The Netherlands
🇸🇸 South Sudan🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe🇵🇹 Portugal
🇸🇻 El Salvador🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇾 Syria🇱🇧 Lebanon
🇸🇿 Eswatini🇿🇦 South Africa
🇹🇩 Chad🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇬 Togo🇫🇷 France
🇹🇭 Thailand🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇯 Tajikistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste🇸🇬 Singapore
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇳 Tunisia🇫🇷 France
🇹🇴 Tonga🇳🇿 New Zealand
🇹🇷 Turkey🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇼 Taiwan🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇿 Tanzania🇰🇪 Kenya
🇺🇦 Ukraine🇷🇺 Russia
🇺🇬 Uganda🇺🇸 The United States
🇺🇸 The United States🇲🇽 Mexico
🇺🇾 Uruguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines🇧🇧 Barbados
🇻🇪 Venezuela 🇨🇴 Colombia
🇻🇳 Vietnam🇯🇵 Japan
🇻🇺 Vanuatu🇦🇺 Australia
🇽🇰 Kosovo🇦🇱 Albania
🇾🇪 Yemen🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇿🇦 South Africa🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇿🇲 Zambia🇿🇦 South Africa
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe🇿🇦 South Africa

While it’s the top googled country in neighboring places like Canada and Mexico, it’s also number one in countries much farther away like Nigeria, Sweden, and Australia.

The U.S. is currently the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP, and one of the biggest cultural influences globally. However, it’s worth noting that China, the world’s second-largest economy and the most populated, had very little search interest in comparison, at least based on Google Trends data.

Zooming into Specific Regions

In addition to the network map highlighting the overall top googled countries, Sundell created a series of videos breaking down the data monthly, by regions. Here are the videos for the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The United States

Since 2004, there have been a high number of searches for Canada, Mexico and India in America.

The searches for Mexico seem to be concentrated in the Western U.S., which is also where a large portion of the country’s Hispanic population lives. In contrast, searches for India seem to come mostly from the eastern side of the country.

Europe

The U.S. is by the far the most commonly googled country across Europe, ranking number one consistently over the last two decades.

However, Russia stole the limelight in 2014, the year that they invaded and ultimately annexed Crimea.

Asia

In the early 2000s, the U.S. held the top googled spot in Asia, but over time, relative searches for the U.S. go down. India stole the top spot to become the most googled country in Asia for a majority of the 2010s.

One anomaly occurred when Japan briefly took the top spot in March 2011, which is when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the northern coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami.

What will future search results reveal about the global landscape? Were any of the results surprising?

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Politics

Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

There is a clear correlation between trust in government and trust in public institutions, but a few countries buck the trend.

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Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

In many countries around the world, vast portions of the population do not trust their own government.

Lack of faith in government and politics is nothing new, but in times of uncertainty, that lack of trust can coalesce into movements that challenge the authority of ruling parties and even threaten the stability of nations.

This visualization uses data from the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor to look at how much various populations trust their government and public institutions.

Tracking Trust in Government

Since the beginning of the pandemic, global trust in government has improved by eight percentage points, but that is only a small improvement on an otherwise low score.

At the country level, feelings towards government can vary widely. India, Germany, Netherlands, and Malaysia had the highest government trust levels.

Many of the countries with the lowest levels of trust were located in Latin America. This makes sense, as trust in politicians in this region is almost non-existent. For example, in Colombia, only 4% of the population consider politicians trustworthy. In Argentina, that figure falls to just 3%.

Trust in Public Institutions

Broadly speaking, people trust their public services more than the governments in charge of managing and funding them. This makes sense as civil servants fare much better than politicians and government ministers in trustworthiness.

chart showing global trust in professions. Politicians and government ministers rank the lowest.

As our main chart demonstrates, there is a correlation between faith in government and trust in public institutions. There are clear “high trust” and “low trust” groupings in the countries included in the polling, but there is also a third group that stands out—the countries that have high trust in public institutions, but not in their government. Leading this group is Japan, which has a stark difference in trust between public services and politicians. There are many factors that explain this difference, such as values, corruption levels, and the reliability of public services in various countries.

While trust scores for government improved slightly during the pandemic, trust in public institutions stayed nearly the same.

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