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The Importance Of Plants On Planet Earth

1146 words - 5 pages

The Importance of Plants on Planet Earth

Plants As We See Them
---------------------

Plants are all around us, renowned for their aesthetic appeal; their
colours and structures lend themselves to decoration. Plants are used
in celebrations and commiseration's and are often celebrated in their
own right- the annual Michigan potato festival being a good example.
Plants are associated with national identity. The Scottish thistle;
Irish Shamrock; Welsh leeks and daffodils. Many national flags feature
plants, the Cedar tree on the Lebanese flag, and the Maple leaf on the
Canadian flag. However all of these commendations can not begin to
celebrate the real importance of plants on planet earth. In this essay
I will explore the biological and physical importance of plants and
the issues surrounding them.
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The Real Importance
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For millions of years the chemical needs of the biosphere have run on
solar energy. Plants (along with some bacteria and green algae) are
autotrophs that have the ability to convert this solar energy into
chemical energy by a process called photosynthesis. This chemical
energy, stored in plants is the fuel that sustains life.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS: The Light Reaction.
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Photosynthesis takes place in the leaves of plants. There are two
stages; the light-dependant or light reaction and the
light-independent or dark reaction. In photosynthesis the light
reaction, for which the presence of chlorophyll (the green pigment
found in the chloroplasts) is essential, begins with the absorption of
sunlight in the blue and red wavelengths. The light is absorbed by one
of the numerous light harvesting areas found in the thylakoid
membranes, structures present in the grana. In the light reaction
energy is converted into ATP and NADPH. Water, obtained through the
roots and stem of the plant, is split, and as a by-product, Oxygen in
released. This 'by-product' has a major impact on the bioshpere.
Today's atmosphere would not have 21% oxygen if it were not for
photosynthesis.
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The Dark Reaction
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Also found in the chloroplasts is a fluid filled region called the
stroma. This structure contains most of the enzymes needed for the
light independent or dark reaction, the process that converts Carbon
Dioxide to Glucose. The dark reaction depends on the ATP and NADPH
obtained from the light reaction. Carbon dioxide obtained by the plant
from the atmosphere through the stomata in the leaves, bonds with
Hydrogen and Oxygen from the water and from the atmosphere to form
carbohydrates in the form of glucose (C6H12O6+6O2). The carbohydrates,
...

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