Plant life and trees are critical to the survival of humans, and to the regulation of ecosystems and the environment.
In this guide, we list the most important types of plants that help humans survive, and why they might be important.
Summary – Most Important Plant Life To Humans, Ecosystems & Wildlife
Summary List Of Most Important Plant Life
A summary of the most important plant life might include:
– All land based trees, seaweed and plant life
– Rainforest plant life (particularly tropical rainforest plant life)
– Plants used for food, and agriculture (such as crops – we’ve outlined some of the most important and popular food crops in this guide)
– Plankton (phytoplankton, and zooplankton)
– Other miscellaneous plant life and vegetation
– Also, although we don’t list them specifically in the guide below, plant-like organisms like algae might become more important in the future if they are used for bioenergy, and for biofuels such as sustainable aviation fuel (as one example)
How Humans Use Plant Life
Food, clothing and textiles, construction, industrial activity, medicine, chemicals, gardening and science are all some of the most important ways humans might directly use plants in the economy and society
We also indirectly use plants such as trees, plankton and vegetation for the oxygen they produce
How Plants Help The Environment & Ecosystems
Some ways plants can help the environment and ecosystems around the world are:
– Being a bottom of the food chain food source
– Maintaining gaseous balance
– Helping reduce heat and prevent drying up of moisture
– Helping prevent soil erosion
– Helping maintain or improve soil fertility
– Having a cooling effect on the atmosphere leading to rainfall
– Providing a habitat and home for some animals and micro-organisms
All Land Based Trees, Seaweed & Plant Life
All of the oxygen in our air that makes it breathable comes from the photosynthesis process from two main sources:
1) Phytoplankton in the ocean (produces 50% of oxygen). The warming of the ocean and other issues like ocean acidification can impact phytoplankton numbers.
2) Land based trees, seaweed and plant life (produces the other 50% of oxygen)
Deforestation and the clearing and conversion of land to other land uses are some of the potential threats to the amount of land based plant life we have left.
Having said that, some types of trees can be replanted, and some types of land can be restored in some instances.
Aside from oxygen production, trees provide us with a range of benefits and fulfil a range of functions.
Rainforest Plant Life
We’ve outlined a few of the benefits and functions rainforests provide in this guide.
But, rainforestinfo.org.au also indicates that rainforests have many critical benefits and functions such as:
Providing biodiversity – having between 50 and 90 percent of the world’s species
Providing medicines – a quarter of all modern medicines came originally from rainforests
Providing food diversity
Helping to regulate climate – Tropical forests regulate global and regional climate-systems by acting as heat and water pumps
Helping to prevent flooding, soil loss and siltation
Some reports indicate that Earth has more trees on it than 35 years ago, but rainforest deforestation is one of the asterisks to that stat, as rainforests are still being depleted (more so than other types of tree cover).
It’s also important to consider forest density and not just total forest area cover in deforestation rates.
Read more about tree numbers on Earth and how many we might need in this guide.
This guide also outlines how rainforests in particular may be maintained, protected and saved from deforestation.
Plants For Food & Agriculture
Plants used for food and agriculture, like fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses and so on, are extremely important for not only humans to eat, but also animals and livestock to eat.
Some of the most widely produced and valuable plant based crops to our economies and well being in the world are:
Fruit (bananas, apples etc.)
Plankton (Phytoplankton and Zooplankton)
Plankton includes both plants and animals (whoi.edu)
Some phytoplankton are bacteria, some are protists, and most are single-celled plants (earthobservatory.nasa.gov) …
Phytoplankton, also known as microalgae, are similar to terrestrial plants in that they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight in order to live and grow (oceanservice.noaa.gov)
So, plankton could be classified as a plant or an animal.
It makes sense then that plankton might be amongst the most important animals to humans and ecosystems too.
Plankton absorb energy from the Sun and nutrients from the water
They are responsible for around half of the world’s oxygen production via photosynthesis.
Plankton might be threatened in the long term if the world’s oceans keep warming.
This could limit the amount of breathable air we have available in the future.
There are several things humans can be doing to help save and maintain the health of the ocean though, which may in turn help maintain plankton numbers.
Other sources indicate that the ocean produces about half the world’s oxygen and sea plants, like Posidonia, produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe … [compared to rainforests at 28%].
Fungi are more closely related to animals than plants.
Read more about how important fungi are to humans and the environment in this guide.
Other Important Ways Humans Use Plant Life
Ways that humans may use plants in the economy and across society might include:
– Clothing & textiles
We grow fibres such as cotton that we use for a range of textiles and clothing
Wood, rubber and other plant based materials are used to build and construct items
Industrial plant crops, and plant material such as wood used in construction
Hundreds of medicines are derived from plants
Pesticides, tobacco, and poisons can be derived from plants
Plants are used in gardening and growing for shade, to modify temperatures, reduce wind, abate noise, provide privacy, and prevent soil erosion
Basic biological research can be done with plants
Why Plants Are So Important In Nature, & To Balance The Ecosystem
According to studyread.com:
They are near the bottom of the food chain for all animals and organisms
They help maintain gaseous balance in the air
They help reduce heat and prevent drying up of moisture
They help prevent soil erosion
They help maintain soil fertility
They have a cooling effect on the atmosphere leading to rainfall
They provide habitats and homes for many species of animals