The Importance of Plants to Life on Earth
The Importance of Plants to Life on Earth
“If a tree dies, plant another in its place.” – Carl Linnaeus
For all forms of life, plants form the basic food staples, and this is just one reason why plants are important. They are the major source of oxygen and food on earth since no animal is able to supply the components necessary without plants. The fish we eat consume algae and the cattle we eat as beef feed on grass, so even if you’re not a fan of salads, your food source relies on plants.
Plants are used as state and national emblems as well, including state flowers and state trees. Trees from ancient times are famous and are revered. Plants hold world records as well. Often, plants prominently figure in literature, religion and mythology
Plants also provide animals with shelter, produce clothing material, medicines, paper products, reduce noise levels and wind speed, reduce water runoff and soil erosion. Coal is also produced from plant materials that were once alive.
Cash crops produce income for farmers. Peanut oil comes from peanuts, corn oil comes from corn and olive oil comes from olive. Cash crops also include typical products of agriculture like rice, rye, wheat and corn. Cocoa plants give us chocolate, coffee plants produce coffee and vanilla plants produce vanilla flavoring.
Many beverages and drinks like tea and cola come from plants. Other cash crops include cotton, vegetables, fruit, lumber and rubber from trees. For overall ecology, plants are also important. The roots prevent soil erosion and when plants undergo photosynthesis, they use up carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, just like herbal plants do in this article.
This course on the different types of plants is a great place to learn more about the importance of plants, but I’ll get you started with some basic information – read on!
Plants are Food
Either indirectly or directly, human nutrition is dependent on plants. Throughout the history of human beings, about seven thousand various species of plants have been used as food for humans. To a large extent, human nutrition depends on corn or maize, rice, wheat and other cereals.
Other crop staples include legumes, cassava and potato. Human food also includes edible flowers, herbs, nuts, certain fruits, spices and vegetables. From plants, beverages produced include alcohol, beer, wine, tea and coffee.
We obtain sugar from sugar beet and sugar cane and from flowers comes honey. From olives, sunflowers, safflowers, rapeseed and soybean comes margarine and cooking oils. Additives in food include pectin, starch, locust bean gum, guar gum and gum Arabic.
Animals of livestock which are all herbivores include camels, goats, sheep, pigs and cows and most manly feed on grasses and cereal plants. Brewer’s yeast and other fungi provide human beings with numerous beverages and foods including staples like beer and bread.
Brewer’s yeast is not only important to producing great food but it is especially rich in vitamin B12 and is quite nutritious. In the maturation of cheese, some molds are important such as the kind you see in blue cheese. A great source of dietary fiber is found in edible mushrooms, which also happen to be a complete protein. Plus, some mushrooms used as food are medicinal, and provide a smattering of benefits to health. Mushrooms also make great ingredients in nutritious dishes that heal, as you can see in this course on healing foods.
Plants Provide Air and Regulate the Water Cycle
Plants bring you oxygen which is a by-product of photosynthesis. Carbon is also stored by plants and they help in keeping a lot of the produced carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels out into the earth’s atmosphere. also, the water cycle is regulated by plants. The help in purifying and distributing the water of the planet. They also help in moving water from the soil to the atmosphere through a method called ‘transpiration.’
They Are Important to Science
Plants and fungi in particular have industrial applications and many model organisms enable comprehension of fundamental biology such as development and genetics. Entrepreneurs apply plants such as fungi to provide biodegradable and sustainable products that are structural such as vehicle bumpers, packing materials and building materials. Enzymes produced by plants and fungi are valuable in the industry of paper pulp, for fashion and even bioremediation. Denim jeans are softened by enzymes from plants.
In the world of science, brewer’s yeast and the mold Neurospora crassa are organism models used globally in applied and basic science laboratories. In the year 1996, the first eukaryole to have a sequenced genome was saccharomyces cerevisiae.Industrial synthesis basic chemicals include a fast array of organic chemicals that you can get from plants. These chemicals are utilized in vast varieties of experiments and studies.
The rings of trees serve as a record of climates from the past and are an important dating method in archaeology. Often, basic biological research has been done with plants such as the peas used for deriving the laws of genetics by Gregor Mendel. Space colonies or space stations may one day depend on plants for the support of life.
The ethnobotany field studies the use of plants by indigenous cultures which help in discovering new medicinal plants and in conserving species that are endangered. In the US, gardening is the most popular activity of leisure. Horticulture therapy or working with plants is beneficial for rehabilitating persons with disabilities.
Certain plants contain chemicals psychotropics which are ingested after extraction including opium, cannabis and tobacco. It is also from plants that we get pesticides such as pyrethrin, strychnine, rotenone and nicotine. Poisonous substances are also derived from plants including curare, hemlock and ricin.
For aesthetic purposes, thousands of species of plants are cultivated. In addition, plants can help prevent soil erosion, provide privacy, abate noise, reduce wind, modify temperatures and provide shades. Often, people cut dried flowers to frame, and display house plants in greenhouses or indoors.
In gardens, bedding plants, herbaceous perennials, vines, shrubs, ornamental trees, shade trees, lawn grasses and outdoor gardens are planted. Often, in textiles, photography, language, humor, architecture and art, images of plants are used often.
These are also used on coats of arms, flags, stamps and money. There are art forms made of living plants as well including espalier, ikebana, bonsai and topiary. The course of history has sometimes been changed by plants such as the tulipomania.
Each year, plants are the reason for the existence of a multi-billion dollar per year industry of tourism which includes traveling to forests, rainforests, tulip festivals, national parks, historic gardens, botanical gardens and arboretums. In the National Cherry Blossom Festival, there are forests filled with colorful leaves of autumn. Plants that are sold as novelties include the resurrection plant, sensitive plant and the Venus flytrap.
Plants Are Used for Natural Products
It is from plants that you get natural products that include cork, amber, alkaloids, resins, gums, latex, tannins, waxes, pigments, natural dyes, essential oils and fibers. Other products also include hemp rope, chewing gum, inks, plastics, linoleum, lubricants, varnish, rubber, turpentine, cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, paints and soaps.
Cotton is made from cellulose-derived synthetic fibers like acetate and rayon as well as rame, flax and cotton. From plants, renewable fuel comes as well including biofuels like peat and firewood. From plants, you can derive fossil fuel like petroleum and coal.
Aside from its other myriad uses, the backbone of all habitats is also made up from plants. Other species of wildlife and fish also depend on pants for shelter and food. Wood is used for sports equipment, musical instruments, cardboard, paper, furniture and buildings.
One fourth of the drugs that are prescribed is derivatives of or come directly from plants. In addition, 4 out of 5 people around the globe at the moment rely on plants for primary healthcare. Medicines derived from plants include vincristine, digitalis, colchicine, reserpine, quinine, morphine, taxol and aspirin. There are also herbal supplements by the hundreds such as Saint John’s wort, feverfew, Echinacea and ginkgo.
Plants are also important in the search for cancer drugs. Current therapeutics of cancer include paclitaxel, isolated from the Chinese happy tree camptothecin. It is also derived from the South African willow and the Himalayas and eastern US etoposide. There has been a long history for the search of anti-cancer drugs from plants and other natural sources.
Promising sources of drugs are found in algae, sea squirts and sea sponges, which are all drug sources undergoing studies at the moment. Plants are the anchor structures of these organism’s ecosystems. When there is rapid loss of plant life, the consequences are far-reaching and the losses will affect future cancer discovery of drugs adversely.
Also, extraordinarily powerful medicines are provided by fungi which have revolutionized massive economic worth (like cholesterol medicine, immuno-suppressants and antibiotics) and human health.
The cephalosporins, statins, cyclosporine and penicillin drugs are all based on fungi-produced natural chemicals. In TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine, mushrooms are also important ingredients and myriad activities that are therapeutic such as anti-tumor, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects have been attributed to them. Plants can be a part of natural approaches to chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and cancer just like this course on medicinal food shows you.
Plants Relieve Stress
To our living spaces, plants bring natural beauty. By creating balance and texture, a patio or room can be transformed instantly into a welcoming, comfortable environment. Just like beauty pageant queens, however, plants can do so much more than just look beautiful. They clean the air we breathe by acting as oxygen factories and absorbing toxins.
They are also proven for reducing stress. Generally, plants simply make people feel better. By improving air quality and easing mental fatigue, plants manage to find themselves an indispensable part of life at home. Plants reduce stress-related muscle tension, lower blood pressure and calm the heart rate. No matter where they are located, you will find that plants are full of countless benefits, as you will see in this course on plants from China.
Plants also help us focus and relax, leading to increased capabilities of solving problems, idea generation, creativity and increased productivity. Plants also help surgery-recovering patients and ease Alzheimer’s symptoms. As a matter of fact, the existence of plants is so significant that they have even been shown to relieve the experienced symptoms of children with ADD.
At this point it is clear that our ancestors were onto something and that plants are so much more than just ornamental. We are deeply connected to plants on some level that just living with them in our home brings us repose and health.