Tuesday, March 8, 2011


PLANTS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Plants form the basis of most food chains on the planet. To pass on their genes, plants must find mates, avoid being eaten and compete for resources in an ever-changing environment — all while being rooted to the spot. They have evolved a myriad of strategies to deal with these environmental challenges.
Most adaptation strategies are chemical, many involving the production of secondary metabolites, such as alkaloids and steroids, which we, in turn, rely on as the basis of our pharmacological recipe book. Some 100,000 secondary metabolites have been discovered thus far, and technological advances will probably see this number double in the next decade.

The environment shapes plants, but plants also influence the environment. They store carbon, fix nitrogen and produce oxygen1. They shape weather patterns, provide flood defence, purify water, provide food, and offer solace and inspiration.

With nearly 7 billion humans affecting the environmental composition of the planet, however, plants are being forced to function under conditions outside their recent evolutionary experience, and it is unclear what the knock-on effects will be. Modelling studies are beginning to unravel the links between our changing environment and ecosystem health, but more research is needed to inform legislation.


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Publisher and/or Author and/or Editor:__Andres Agostini ─ @Futuretronium at Twitter! Futuretronium Book at http://3.ly/rECc