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Why do we need plants

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Why?

Rainy leafYou don’t have to be a gardener, a farmer, or a biologist to know how much we all rely on plants. We use plants for food, shelter, clothing, medicines and they provide even the air we breathe. Below, there are some examples in what way, we rely on plants.

Food

Plants are the foundation of most food webs on Earth. Even totally carnivorous animals, such as lions, need plants because their prey are plant eaters. Also, the wild relatives of the plants we grow and eat, are becoming increasingly important for breeding to make healthier and more productive crops. For example, the Texas wild rice. This type of rice is known only from one river in Texas and is being bred with northern wild rice, because people want to develop a strain suitable for mild climates.

Medicines

Did you know that native Americans used more than 2,000 wild plants for medicine? Even one quarter of all prescribed drugs, have plant origins. Taxol is used to treat ovarian cancer and was discovered in the bark of the Pacific yew. Aspirin, a very common drug, has its base in willow trees.

Industry

Many ingredients in cosmetics are provided by plants. Think of aloe and jojoba. Corn is used to produce a variety of products like soap, glue and plastics. Even nine rare meadow foams from California and Oregon, contain seed oils which can be used as an alternative to sperm whale oil, as industrial lubricants.

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Though we need plants, mankind isn't very carefully to them. Plants are threatened.

Clean air and water

Plants are the basis of ecosystems and purify air and water. Green plants combine sunlight and carbon dioxide, through the process of photosynthesis, to fresh air. With every breath we take, we depend on the oxygen that is given off by plants.
Plants also are part of the water cycle. 90% or more of the water that is absorbed a plant’s roots, is eventually released back to the atmosphere.

Energy

White plantEvery time we turn on the lights in a room, we use electricity which is made with coal or other fossil fuels. Coal and other fossil fuels are formed by plants that lived a long time ago. Over 350 million years ago, giant relatives of today’s ferns and horsetails, became covered with mud as they died. In that way they were prevented from decaying. It took long time and compression to form coal or other fossil fuels of it.

Shelter

Protection and shelter are also an property of plants. The timber coming from trees, is used in the construction of many of our homes. Cotton plants provide us with cotton, which we use to make clothes, and furthermore, plants provide home and shelter and create habitats for many animals. In the tropics, a single tree can be the home of more than 1,000 different insect species.

Inspiration

People are arguing, that the true value of plants lies not in their uses, but lies in their intrinsic value to life. While we can analyse many benefits that plants offer us, there is no way of measuring the value of living things or the inspiration or pleasure it can provide us.