We hear so much about the environment, how we are causing the extinction of wildlife and cutting down rainforests depriving the Earth of trees, but we don’t so much hear about the reasons plants are important. In a nutshell, they are absolutely vital to the Earth and humankind and they are so much more than something we put on our plates or make our gardens look pretty. After reading these reasons plants are important, you may never look upon a flower in the same way again.
1. They Replace a Lot of the Earth’s CO2 with O2
This is one of the main reasons plants are important, although a lot of people do not realize that plants produce CO₂ at night, and only produce O₂ during the day. The ratio is off, however, as they produce more 0₂ per year than CO₂. Without plants, the Earth would not be able to support life as complex and fragile as mammals.
2. We Are Omnivores and Need Plants to Live a Healthy Life
We can live on plants alone, but did you know that some animals are so lacking in nutrients that you could die from simply eating them? For example, rabbits are full of protein but pretty much nothing else besides a bit of calcium. Eating nothing but meat is not good for an omnivore such as humans, and will shorten your life considerably.
3. They Are a Major Player in the Gaia Hypothesis
The Earth reacts to the environment, and the environment reacts to the Earth. Plants reacted to the environment and turned forests into African plains, thereby making the saber-toothed tiger extinct. There is nothing that has had such a large effect on life on Earth, except for humans of course.
4. Many Plants Form the Basis of Medicine
Aspirin was first discovered from the pain relieving properties of some willow trees. It produces salicin, which your body turns into a pain relieving compound. A lot of drugs started life out as plants. Basically, all of the Chinese herbs you read about were tested. The ones that worked were made into medicines, and the ones that didn’t are still kicking around in holistic medicine shops.
5. They Are Part of the Water Cycle Thanks to Transpiration
Another of the significant reasons plants are important is that plants play a large part in keeping fresh water in the land and the sky over continents. Without plants the world would be a far harsher place. Coastal regions would be frequently flooded, and large countries would have a very dry center. Water that lands inland would simply flow back out to sea if it were not for plants. Plants absorb the water and some of it is pushed into the atmosphere due to transpiration from the leaves. This actually lowers the chances of nasty storms coming in from the sea, and helps to keep clouds over our inland areas, which in turn helps when it returns to Earth as precipitation (rain, hail snow etc…).
6. Many Plants Are Used for the Production of Goods
The most obvious ones are paper and wood. They are made from trees, but there are thousands of other goods that rely on plants for their raw materials. Some of them work very easily and require little production, such as latex. Latex can be bled from rubber trees quite easily. Resin on the other hand requires a little more work, but is still around thanks to plants. Most of the colors in your packet of M&Ms were derived from plants in some way. It was fun when people discovered the red ones were made from crushed beetles (they are not anymore).
7. They Work with Detritivores to Help Stop the World Cluttering up with Waste
A leaf falls on the ground. Bacteria, mould, insects and even small mammals will have their way with it. What is left over, such as their waste, or what is left of the leaf will sit on the ground. Plants absorb parts of the leaf until it is broken down even further, leaving very little left but dust (if every element worked at 100% efficiency). It is one of the reasons plants are important because the planet would be a far sludgier place if it were not for them.
Interesting stuff hey? Who knew the human race had so much reliance on plants? I think I’ll appreciate the reasons plants are important more the next time I sniff a rose. How about you?