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March 4, 2013

Ten Reasons Why We Need Plants

Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata) a Threatened Species

Human activities have greatly altered the face of the earth, particularly the forests and fields that cover it. Every time we allow a species to slip into extinction, we are throwing away a biological component of the world that might or might not be of crucial importance. Just because we do not know whether a species is useful to the human economy or to the community of species of which it is a part does not mean that we can cast it aside. I present a ten-point argument that plants do not just cover the earth but keep it alive as well:
  1. Plants have produced nearly all of the oxygen that is in the atmosphere.
  2. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to regulate the greenhouse effect.
  3. Plants create cool shade.
  4. Plants help to prevent floods and droughts.
  5. Plants put sunlight energy into the entire food chain of earth.
  6. Plants transform dirt into soil.
  7. Plants create the habitats in which all organisms live.
  8. Plants grow back after disturbances, restoring habitats.
  9. Plants are the basis of agriculture.
  10. The diversity of plant species sustains natural habitats and human activities.
Economists have estimated that the "ecosystem services" provided by the natural world, mostly by plants, and for which we do not have to pay, are worth $33 trillion to the world economy - an amount equivalent to about half of its total annual pro-ductivitiy.

Naturalists like myself are on a mission: to proclaim to the world the importance of plants and why we should save those that are endangered. We need to preserve the wild plants of forests and fields as if our lives depended on it - because they do. The greatest extinction of plant species that has ever occurred is now under way, and it is unnoticed by most people.

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