Biodiversity of Plants


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By Rkitko – cobbled together by User:Rkitko from images available on Wikimedia Commons., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6412607

OpenStax Biology 2e

Biodiversity ensures a resource for new food crops and medicines. Plant life balances ecosystems, protects watersheds, mitigates erosion, moderates our climate, and provides shelter for many animal species. Threats to plant diversity, however, come from many sources. The explosion of the human population, especially in tropical countries where birth rates are highest and economic development is in full swing, is leading to devastating human encroachment into forested areas. To feed the growing population, humans need to obtain arable land, so there has been and continues to be massive clearing of trees. The need for more energy to power larger cities and economic growth therein leads to the construction of dams, the consequent flooding of ecosystems, and increased emissions of pollutants. Other threats to tropical forests come from poachers, who log trees for their precious wood. Ebony and Brazilian rosewood, both on the endangered list, are examples of tree species driven almost to extinction by indiscriminate logging. This unfortunate practice continues unabated today largely due to lack of population control and political willpower.

The number of plant species becoming extinct is increasing at an alarming rate. Because ecosystems are in a delicate balance, and seed plants maintain close symbiotic relationships with animals—whether predators or pollinators—the disappearance of a single plant can lead to the extinction of connected animal species. A real and pressing issue is that many plant species have not yet been catalogued, and so their place in the ecosystem is unknown. These unknown species are threatened by logging, habitat destruction, and loss of pollinators. They may become extinct before we have the chance to begin to understand the possible impacts from their disappearance. Efforts to preserve biodiversity take several lines of action, from preserving heirloom seeds to barcoding species. Heirloom seeds come from plants that were traditionally grown in human populations, as opposed to the seeds used for large-scale agricultural production. Barcoding is a technique in which one or more short gene sequences, taken from a well-characterized portion of DNA found in most genomes, are used to identify a species through DNA analysis.

Source:

Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e

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