Eastern Daisy Fleabane
Plants and plant communities (places where a variety of plants live together) are very important to humans and their environment. Here are some of the important things plants provide.
Plants have great "aesthetic" value which means they add to the beauty of the places that we live. How many of us would be want to live without the plants around us, including the forests, woodlands, and grasslands surrounding our towns and cities? Native grasses and wildflowers provide use with a link to our history.
Throughout history plants have been of great importance to medicine. Eighty percent of all medicinal drugs originate in wild plants. In fact, 25 percent of all prescriptions written annually in the United States contain chemicals from plants.
In spite of all the medical advances, only 2 percent of the world's plant species have ever been tested for their medical potential. That means there are many important drugs yet to be discovered.
Although some 3,000 species of plants have been used as food by humans, 90 percent of the world's food comes from only 20 plant species. Three species of grasses--rice, wheat, and corn-are the most important food plants.
Plants are also very important for the goods they provide. Fibers from plants provide clothing. Wood used to build our homes depends on plants. Some fuel products are made from plants, like ethanol made from corn and soy diesel made from soybeans.
Plant communities form the basis for many important recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, hunting, and nature observation.
The oxygen in the air we breathe comes from the photosynthesis of plants. The quality of the air can be greatly influenced by plants. Plants can stop the movement of dust and pollutants. Through the intake of carbon dioxide, plants can also lessen the greenhouse effect caused from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.
Plants are extremely important to the quality of the water we use. A diverse cover of plants aids in maintaining healthy watersheds, streams, and lakes by holding soil in place, controlling stream flows, and filtering sediments from water.
The delicate wildflowers that dot the roadsides in Iowa during the spring, summer and fall, protect the soil from erosion caused by heavy rains. Without enough plant cover, wind or water erodes the thin layer of soil that we depend on.
Regional climates are impacted by the amount and type of plant cover. Forest and marshes, for example, can cool local climates. Natural disasters, such as drought, have been blamed on the destruction of forests and other critically important plant communities.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Plants and plant communities provide the necessary habitat (a place to live) for wildlife and fish populations.
The word "ecosystem" means the way in which humans, plants and animals all live together supporting each other. Every species serves an important role or purpose in their community.
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