It’s easy to think of plants as inanimate objects.
As you read this, many plants are in the midst of their seasonal bloom and dying off. They are shedding leaves, flowers, and seeds. All of this will eventually lead to a proliferation of new life from new sprouts that will begin to grow. When humans arrived in North America some 10–15 thousand years ago, there were more than 1 million species of plants; today about 42–43% have already disappeared from North American forests. Scientists estimate that soon all species could be gone within two hundred years.
What is happening? These plants were once part of the natural order established by Mother Nature long before we ever existed—and they did not ask for or want anything in return except the stability and security we provide them with through our perspective on them as living beings.
In the past, I heard it said that nature can give everything back; I think this is true because nature always wants to cleanse herself and find her own balance again while also respecting all other forms of life on Earth—creatures large and small—as well as herself.
Plants are the basis of human life.
If you’re looking for any excuse to appreciate the greenery around you, think about this: plants are literally what we’re made of. Every part of our body owes itself to plants, from the oxygen in our lungs and the water in our bodies to the food we eat and even the clothes we wear. Plants produce these things, while also filtering toxins out of the air that we breathe and providing shade so that ground water doesn’t evaporate too quickly.
A strong ecosystem is required for healthy plant growth. When humans are encroaching on these ecosystems, it can be difficult for a healthy number of plants to survive there anymore. Animals who rely on those plants may not be able to live there anymore, which can affect humans as well if they need those animals for food or other resources. Plants can also become stressed when their environments are being destroyed by human intervention. This stress causes problems like increased pollen production in trees or susceptibility to pathogens like fungi and bacteria—the latter of which can infect us as well, causing diseases like ringworm or athlete’s foot if we come into contact with them directly or indirectly through an animal host that carries them. A lot goes into preserving an ecosystem which includes preserving the plants within it!
The fight to save plants has deep implications for the future of our species.
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We’re not doing great at conserving plants.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the weeds when discussing botanical conservation. The fact is, we’re a long way from being able to put an end to the extinction of plants due to human activities, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working towards this goal.
At the heart of many conservation efforts are plants. Plants are the basis for all life on Earth, providing food, shelter, and other essentials for us animals who have yet to evolve into sentient beings capable of deep thought about our lives and where we come from. As our numbers continue to grow exponentially thanks to technology like smartphones and cars that efficiently distribute our species across every corner of Earth’s surface, there’s no denying it: humans have become one of the most important forces on this planet.
In addition to creating new problems for us through climate change or pollution, humans have started treating Nature as just another resource that can be exploited at will. This attitude has led us (and some governments) into putting animals and plants on the endangered species list. We’ve even gone so far as removing them entirely—like in places like Yellowstone National Park in America—because they’re seen as interfering with human needs and desires in some way or another. It is also important that people understand what exactly is at stake if we don’t protect these precious resources: 9/10th’s of all known plant species are unique; even within a single genus (family), only 5–10% share common characteristics with each other; 98% lack any genetic variation between individuals; 90% lack any genetic variation between different populations’ individuals; 21% lack variation between populations themselves; there are about 2 million plant species on Earth (which equals 10 times more than animal species); 85 percent of these plant species exist only in one country or continent (out of 434 total countries); 1 million plant species may already exist but not be cataloged because they haven’t been scientifically described yet; roughly half of all known plant diversity could disappear by
And…we need to do better.
We could be doing so much better.
As plants are being lost at an alarming rate—the world is losing 50% of its wild plant species by the end of this century, according to National Geographic—it’s important to address how we can all help stem that tide. This blog post is intended to serve as a primer on this topic, with a combination of education and storytelling. Also you’ll find some fun facts about plants and where they’ve been (and might still be) in human history along the way.
Human interests and botanical conservation are two sides of the same coin, and we ignore one at our peril
I love plants. I’ve loved them since I was a kid and my mom told me they make oxygen. I’ve loved them since that time when we had a sunflower garden in our backyard and I stood under the arched canopy of flowers and watched the seeds dance like little helicopters into the sunlight. There were some times in between where I thought about other things, but always, at heart, plants have been one of my loves.
What does this have to do with conservation? Well, everything really. Plants are important for people more than anything else on Earth. Plants are the basis of all human life. We need to do better!
Label for this section: Things To Know Before You Begin
Perspective: 1st person (we/our) and 2nd person (you/your/yours)
What this section does: Gives information to the reader
Talking points of this section:
- what is birding?
# Food For Thought: Balancing Human Interests With Botanical Conservation
Botanical conservation is a growing issue in the modern world, with many experts predicting that up to one million species could be extinct by the end of this century. That’s more than half of all currently known species! As we continue to learn about plants and their role in our ecosystem, we have a responsibility to protect them—but it’s not always clear how to do that.
Conservation is often understood as something that gets in the way of what we want, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of seeing it as a roadblock, think about conservation as a tool for ensuring ourselves, our children, and our children’s children a future on this planet.
Plants are often seen as a secondary part of the world, but they play a key role in sustaining life on Earth. They are fundamental to the well-being of humans and wildlife, not just because they provide food, shelter, and medicines, but because their roots absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. If plants die out or are destroyed, not only will we lose the beauty of greenery and colorful blooms, but we will also compromise our health and survival.
The history of botanical conservation is fascinating. The first seed bank was founded by Nikolai Vavilov in St Petersburg in 1918. Vavilov was head of the Bureau of Applied Botany at the Institute of Agriculture and a renowned plant geneticist whose goal was to collect seeds from all around the world in order to improve farming. He traveled extensively searching for seeds that had potential agricultural value, until he was arrested during World War II and sent to prison where he died of starvation.
The first modern seed bank was founded by David Fairchild at Utah State University in 1951. In 1967 Sir Peter Smithers created Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank which holds over two billion seeds as part of its mission “to save plants worldwide, focusing on those most at
Few things are more important to human life than plants. In fact, we’ve been eating them since… well, since our earliest ancestors crawled out of the primordial ocean and onto land around 500 million years ago. We’re sure you know that we need plants for food and other products, but did you know that there are over 5,000 edible plant species in the world? And did you know that the average American diet draws from just 150 of those species?
The importance of plants goes beyond food. Humans rely on plants for shelter, clothing, medicine, and even oxygen. Without plants, our planet would be a very different place—and not probably not a very habitable one.
With so much good coming from plants, it makes sense that they’ve always been at the center of human activities. For thousands of years—from Ancient Egypt to modern America—plants have played a role in shaping economies and cultures around the world… but sometimes, we’ve gone too far in pursuing our own interests at the expense of the natural world.
Today on [blog name], we’re taking a closer look at some instances where humans have gone too far in their pursuit of plant-based riches… and what we
The Save The Trees Foundation is a group of volunteers who work to protect the plants being used up faster than they can grow, mainly trees. The problem with deforestation is that it is so hard to stop. Many people are trying to end it and make more tree farms, but there are still some people who need more trees for their homes and furniture.
A lot of the world’s plants are being used up faster than they can grow.
People need more trees for their homes and furniture. They also need paper products and fuel.
We have to balance human needs with conservation efforts.
The plants that we use to make our food are often taken for granted, but their survival is essential not only to feeding the planet’s population, but also to maintaining the entire ecological system.
At [company name], we’re committed to finding ways to support the global economy while working toward a more sustainable and healthy environment. In this post, we’ll explore some of the most important ways that plants play an integral role in our lives and how [company name] is doing its part to safeguard their future.
Why Plants Are Important
Plants are some of Earth’s most critical inhabitants, from their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (which otherwise leads to global warming) and convert it into oxygen for us humans through photosynthesis (a process many people know about, but few understand its importance), as well as converting sunlight into energy for other organisms like insects, birds, and even animals like giraffes who eat them!
The Importance Of Plant Conservation
Many plant species have been under attack from human activities such as deforestation and agriculture. As a result of these threats, over 40% all terrestrial plant life is now threatened with extinction, according to the UN’s 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. This means that if
For millennia, the only way to enjoy a banana was to pluck it from the tree and eat it while still green. But then a man named Lorenzo Dow Baker came along and bought 160 bunches of bananas in Jaimaca and resold them in New Jersey, marking the first time someone sold bananas in the Northeast United States. This is one of the earliest examples of an entrepreneur in action, and he inspired a whole industry that continues to thrive today.
But why did we not just grow bananas in America? Well, it turns out that banana plants are sensitive creatures that need very specific conditions in order to thrive. This can be difficult to achieve without a lot of careful work, but it’s possible with human engineering. Since we started trying to grow bananas outside their native region, we’ve had many successes, but also some failures—and some of those failures have been devastating for the biodiversity of our planet.
The United States is famously known for its national parks. In fact, the U.S. has more than 60 of them, with a total area that’s larger than England, Switzerland, and Greece combined. But did you know that there are also international parks? The concept originated in France in the 1880s and was later adopted by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) in 1917; NPS actually helped establish the first international park between the U.S. and Mexico, Big Bend National Park, in 1944 (1).
Many people see international parks as an opportunity to preserve biodiversity across borders, but some scientists who study conservation biology aren’t so sure (2).
Although it might seem like a good idea to preserve an ecosystem no matter where it happens to be located, there are a number of factors that make international parks controversial from a scientific point of view:
First, most of these parks are located entirely within tropical countries—the majority of them are in Latin America—which means less developed nations are disproportionately impacted by conservation efforts that have been funded largely by wealthy ones (5).
Second, different countries have different cultures and histories with regard to natural resources; although these resources might be considered valuable by one country, they may be seen