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Biomass, the weight or total quantity of living organisms of one animal or plant species (species biomass) or of all the species in a community (community biomass), commonly referred to a unit area or volume of habitat. The weight or quantity of organisms in an area at a given moment is the standing crop. The total amount of organic material produced by living organisms in a particular area within a set period of time, called the primary or secondary productivity (the former for plants, the latter for animals), is usually measured in units of energy, such as gram calories or kilojoules per square metre per year. Measures of weight—e.g., tons of carbon per square kilometre per year or gigatons of carbon per year—are also commonly recorded.

In a different though related sense, the term biomass refers to plant materials and animal waste used especially as a source of fuel.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated byJohn P. Rafferty, Editor.

  • artiodactyl: Migration

    …populations, and hence a larger biomass (i.e., the total weight of all individuals in an area), can be supported than if all passed their lives in one area. The North American mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) comes from its summer pastures at high altitudes as the first snow falls and returns…

  • soil: Biological phenomena

    …the nutrient reservoirs, and soil biomass provides the chemical pathways for cycling. The carbon in dead biomass is converted to CO2 by aerobic microorganisms and to organic acids or alcohols by anaerobic microorganisms. Under highly anaerobic conditions, methane (CH4) is produced by bacteria. The CO2 produced can be used by…

  • marine ecosystem: Biological productivity

    …standing crop is the total biomass (weight) of vegetation. Most primary productivity is carried out by pelagic phytoplankton, not benthic plants.…


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