Compiling data on human-environment interactions on one website — ScienceDaily

Countless studies have sought to quantify various aspects of human impacts on the planet, but sorting through this data to get answers about what effect we’re actually having can be a challenge for researchers, policymakers and the public. A team of researchers has centralized over 300 key figures in the Human Impacts Database, hosted at In an article published in the journal Grounds on August 3, the authors describe the types of data they collected – and how they hope it will help people understand the climate crisis.

“Writing from California, as several of the authors are, where we now have a ‘wildfire season’ and multi-decadal drought, we wanted to develop a deeper understanding of how human activities might have produced changes dramatic and consequential in our local and global environment,” say the authors, led by Griffin Chure, an NSF postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. “In our search for answers…we have often encountered the same challenges: Disparate technical studies written for an expert audience need to be understood, evaluated, and synthesized just to answer simple questions. It seemed to us that a referenced compendium of ‘things we already know’ “…would be very useful for us and for others.”

The Human Impacts Database provides information ranging from global plastic production (4 x 1011 kg/year), total live livestock (4.6 x 10^10 animals), average annual sea level rise (3.4 (-0.44, +0.47) × 10-3 my ear). The data is divided into five main categories: water, energy, flora and fauna, atmospheric and biogeochemical cycles, and land, and then into 20 sub-categories. Where available, the database includes time series to help illustrate how these numbers have changed.

“We view this database as an adjunct, rather than a substitute, for the myriad of scientific databases that exist and are publicly available on the Internet,” the authors write. “While these databases are invaluable resources for accessing scientific data, the Human Impacts Database is built from the ground up with the intention of being widely accessible to scientists and the curious general public to help building the collective quantitative literacy of the Anthropocene.”

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Sherry J. Basler