[For] the first time […] researchers have calculated humanity’s trophic level, a metric used in ecology to position species in the food chain.

The metric puts plants and algae, which make their own food, at trophic level 1. Rabbits, which eat plants, occupy level 2. Foxes, which eat herbivores, sit at trophic level 3. Cod, a fish that eats other fish, claims level 4. Polar bears and orcas, which have few or no predators and eat other mammals with gusto, hold the top positions — levels up to 5.5.

The study, led by Sylvain Bonhommeau, a fisheries scientist at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea in Sète, estimates that humanity’s global median trophic level was 2.21 in 2009, which puts us on a par with other omnivores, such as pigs and anchovies, in the global food web. “We are closer to herbivore than carnivore,” says Bonhommeau. “It changes the preconception of being top predator.”

[…]

The study also looked at how eating patterns have changed over time. The researchers calculated the human trophic level for 176 countries for each year from 1961 to 2009

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Countries such as China and India […] have shown marked increases in their trophic level. However, places such as Iceland, Mongolia and Mauritania, where traditional diets are mostly based on meat, fish or dairy, have seen their trophic levels decline as they diversified their daily fare.

Calculating human trophic levels reveals our place in the ecosystem and can help scientists to understand human impact on energy consumption and resource strength. […] “If we all increase our trophic level, we’ll start to have a bigger impact on ecosystems,” says Bonhommeau.
[Humans are becoming more carnivorous sur Nature.com]

Une raison de plus de diminuer notre consommation de viande; le trône que l’on occuperait au sommet de la chaîne alimentaire n’étant qu’une légende que l’on aime se raconter autour d’un barbecue.