Earth’s biosphere contains a vast quantity of genetic material.
Scientists have calculated how much genetic material there is on Earth and how much space it takes up.
The impressive figure was reached by adding up all the organisms in the world and multiplying this by the total number of cells containing at least one DNA molecule.
Even greater still is the amount of genetic material the DNA of every plant, animal, bacterium and virus actually contains – enough to fill up the capacity of more than a billion trillion supercomputers.
“We wanted to take an information approach to the biosphere,” said lead author Hanna Landenmark.
“The reason why this is important is that DNA is the fundamental molecule of life and by extent all biological processes that take place in the world are encoded in this molecule.”
The findings should provide an effective new way for researchers to study the Earth’s biosphere and to quantify specific changes in the natural environment such as habitat loss.
The team discovered that the combined DNA of all the world’s plants takes up the most space whereas the DNA of animals and viruses shares the bottom spot in terms of overall abundance.
“This approach may help us to understand the changing complexity of the biosphere over time and to predict in new ways, both anthropogenic and natural, future changes in the biosphere,” the researchers wrote.