Above: Image © Jan Kronsell, Public Domain

What can grow up to 80 meters tall and live for 1000 years?

Give up?

It's a Giant Sequoia, the biggest plant in the world.

Did you know? The oldest known Giant Sequoia was 3,200 years old. That's about as old as the ancient civilization of Egypt.

Plants are very important to the environment. They produce oxygen using light, water and carbon dioxide through a process called photosynthesis. Through this process they produce fuel that is used by many animals as food.

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a process whereby organisms use light energy to convert carbon dioxide (taken in from the leaves) and water (taken from the roots) into G3P and oxygen. G3P (triose phosphate) is used by the plant to make glucose which is used immediately for energy or is packaged together to form starch which can be stored in the plant for later use.

Many scientists say that the production of O2 by plants allowed for complex life (that's us!) to form.

Did you know? Did you know that 350,000 species of plants have been named? Out of these 258,000 are flowering plants.

Trophic levels

Trophic level is a term used to describe the position occupied by an organism in a food chain. A food chain shows the relationships between different organisms in terms of what they eat. Each organism in a food chain occupies a trophic level

Producer: an organism that produces its own food

Consumer: an organism that does not produce its own food, but relies on other organisms for energy (like producers or other consumers).

Decomposer: an organism that feeds on dead organisms

Plants are producers. They are the main providers of energy for all organisms on the planet and are at the bottom of the food chain. In the wild grass is eaten by the rabbit, which is eaten by the snake which is eaten by the hawk. Take away the grass and the rabbit, snake and hawk die.

Did you know? Living rocks are a species of plants that live in the desert. They look exactly like rocks. This prevents them from being eaten by consumers.

Environmental issues

Plants all over the world are being threatened in a variety of ways. The most major threat to plant diversity is agriculture. In Canada, the local grasses that inhabited the Prairie Provinces were cleared out when agriculture began. Because of this many animals such as the prairie chicken (a native bird species) and the black footed ferret disappeared.

Forestry is another industry which is hurting plants and food chains all over the planet. In the Congo, thousands of acres of rainforest are being cut down every year to produce paper and paper products. This is greatly affecting the mountain Gorilla that use the forest as their homes.

Climate change is also affecting plants on a large scale. Many plants in the world require a certain range of temperature and humidity to live. When local climate changes greatly, plants are not able to survive and many die out and so do species that are dependant on them.

Learn More!

Organizations: This answer was researched and written by Sarah Hasnain, a third-year student at the University of Toronto studying the ecological aspects of Zoology.

Sarah Hasnain

I am a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, specializing in Zoology and Near and Middle Eastern Studies. My hobbies are eating ramen, reading science magazines and learning new languages.


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