Environmental Science · Science

Introduction to Botany

Introduction

Botany is the science of plant. Studying plant classification principals and how they related to the evolutionary process of the plant is the first step in order to establish strategies for plant conservation. The molecular properties of plant life play a vital role in plant survival and evolution. They help plant to resist the threats and challenges such as human population and activities, climate change, and pollution. Some treaties and organizations have established strategies to overcome threat effects on plants. The methods that plant species are preserved and recorded for the future is important to understand how these processes relevance to biodiversity. It’s also important for scientists to know the past, present, and future of the botanical life.

Botanical Classification Principles

Plant classification is crucial in order to identify, preserve, and manage plant species. During the history of botanical science, botanists tried to classify plants and record their classifications. Botanical classification is divided into five principals. Artificial System is a non-evolutionary system as it is based on the few characters and the morphology of the species. This principle became undesirable as more plants have been discovered. The natural system is based on the natural relationship between organisms. Some features are considered such as morphology and anatomy. It used to combine the classification with nature features of organisms. The phylogenetic system is a classification of plants according to evolutionary history. Plants that are descended from the same ancestor. Phenetics system or numerical taxonomy which does not reflect the revolutionary relationship. It can be considered as an early step to eliminate the subjectivity by using measured and described characters. The cladistic system is designed to provide a less subjective way of classification. It shows the evolutionary relationships between traits.

The plant classification depends on the evolutionary process of the plant. In the old methods of classification, some classification processes are based on the distinctive characters of the plant and their nature. It based on plant parts as well. The plant evolved from freshwater algae that called Charales from Charophytes group. So the classification of the plant has been changed from kingdom algae into two broad groups; Vascular and non-vascular plants, which is based on the vascular tissue. The vascular plants are divided into two groups; seed and seedless plants. Each sub-group is divided into five classes according to the evolutionary process. Seed plants fall into one class of angiosperms and four classes of gymnosperms.

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Bioweb.uwlax.edu, (2015). UWL Website. [online],http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2012/disrud_sama/classification.htm,[Accessed 9 Nov. 2015].

Plants, as well as the other organisms, have been affected by several threats, such as global warming, illegal trade, and other human activities. The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) is one of the most efficient strategies to conserve plants. It sets five objectives the recognizing of plant diversity, understanding and documenting plant diversity. This object is vital as the number one to solve any issue is to identify the issue. The second objective is very crucial as it push Parties to conserve effectively plant diversity. The third objective is talking about the sustainable of plant diversity, which is achieved by applying the conservation of the plant. The fourth and the fifth goal, I believe, are the keypoint of this strategy. The education, awareness, and public engagement are imperative in any conservational strategies. The International Union for Conservation and Nature, (IUCN), is another most important strategy as it provides a framework that helps environmentalists to plan, implement, monitor, and evaluate the conservation of plant. It sets a Red List which is considered a source of the information regarding the status of animal and plant species. It is succeeded to add 44 threatened with extinction Indian species of medicinal plant to Red List (IUCN.org, 2015). Aconitum chasmanthum, two species of crab, karstama balicum and karstama emdi have been listed as critically endangered. The illegal trading of the endangered species is the one of the most critical reasons that threat plant species. The Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, is established to prevent and manage the trade of endangered plant species. In my opinion, I do not think that this strategy is effective in conserving plant species. It failed to protect Afrormosia trees. It can’t control the illegal trading in non-State Members countries. Also, it requires strong laws and regulations which might not be in the countries’ priorities. Moreover, in critical areas such as in war area, CITES will not be able to control illegal trading of the endangered species.

Molecular Properties

The plant cell is made of 4 types of macromolecules: carbohydrates, protein, nucleic acids, and lipids. Carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It is considered as a primary source of energy that most organisms need. It also supports the cell wall and may act as markers on some cell membranes. There are several types of carbohydrates; monosaccharides, such as glucose, can be used as a source of energy. A disaccharide is a chain of many monosaccharides. Some sugars can form polymers or polysaccharides by linking together. Protein, a broad and complex molecule,  is paramount for the cell as it can’t function without it. It has an essential role in the cell as it moves materials around, supporting the cell wall, sending signals, and promoting chemical reactions. Cytoskeletal protein role is to support the cell wall from inside. Nucleic Acids are polymers of nucleotides. There are two nucleotides in the cell; Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and Rinonucleic Acid (RNA). DNA is crucial for cell genetic. It is responsible for the information of the cell which can be stored, copied and transferred. It acts as a hard drive on your laptop where you can keep data and information.  RNA has the same structure of DNA, but it is more flexible in its function. Some RNA holds cell information, some of them help build protein and some of them control protein formation. Lipids are molecules that can’t mix with water, such as oil, fats and wax. It also can be used as a storage of energy and as a support to the cell wall.

Botanical Hierarchy

There are different ways to classify and to distinguish plant species. One of the plant classification is Eitcher Model. He divided the plant kingdom into two main groups; Cryptogams – seedless plants, and Phanerogams – seed plants. Cryptogams fall into 3 divisions, Thallophyta, Bryophyta, for example; Riccia,  and Pteridophyta, for instance; Nephrolepis. Thallophyta is divided into four phylums; Schizophyta, Algae, Fungi, and Lichen. Phanerogams are divided into two classes; Gymnosperm, such as pinus, and Angrosperms. Angrosperms is divided into two subclasses, Dicot and Monocot.

Anon

Anon, (2015). [pdf],http://gujarat-education.gov.in/textbook/Images/std11_Bilogy_sem_1_eng/chap-3.pdf,[Accessed 9 Nov. 2015].

The molecular properties are critical for the plant to survive and evolve. The plant which has higher levels of carbohydrates can survive in extreme environments where lack of water and rain. They are imperative properties that can carbohydrate provide for the plant. Also, carbohydrate can support and protect the plant cell. Plants with low levels of carbohydrates are damaged more than that of high levels. Proteins play another vital role in plant growth and development. HRGP- Hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein, is an example. This protein is critical to the plant survival; as it accumulates under stress conditions which provide a primary protection to the plant.

Lipids can act as a defense barriers as wax layers on leafs, fruits and flower may protect the plant. By adjusting the membrane lipids, the plant can survive extreme cold temperature. I can argue that these properties are vital to plant to survive. You can imagine that we are in the polar region without a proper coat. Lipids can be considered as the plant coat. Nucleic acid as the hard drive of the plant, it can be used in genetic engineering. It is paramount for conservation of the plant. On the one hand, We can use these techniques to modify any plant gene to help it to survive. On the other hand, it would be maintained that genetic engineering might be harmful to the plant. It should be well studied to ensure that the train of the specific plant is not damaged or changing its characteristics that might affect his survival in the ecosystem.

Threats

Plant species are exposed to many threats. These might be man-made or, by bad environment conditions such as climate change and pollution. Identifying threats and strategies to overcome them are must protect plant species.

Human Population and Activities

Human population and activities impact plant biodiversity. Overpopulation requires more spaces for settlement and more food consumption. Deforestation can be one of the impacts that human causes. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture organization (UNFAO), around 18 million acres of forests are lost annually (LiveScience.com, 2015). Clearing lands for urban development and agriculture is also considered one of the threats.

Climate Change

Changing in climate temperature may impact plant growth. Extreme temperature causes a decrease in water availability and change in soil conditions. These conditions will affect plant growth and even plant diversity. For example, in Kuwait in 2013, I have seen that most of the plants in some areas are dead and unable to survive, while in 2014 during the heavy rain in winter, some plants are started to grow up again. In early November 2015, too much precipitation again affect plant growth and cause some plat to die again.

Pollution

Different types of pollution may affect plant diversity. Air pollution and acid rain can kill plants and destroy their leaves. It can penetrate into the soil and make it unsuitable for the purpose of habitation. Excessive Ultraviolet radiations entered earth from the Ozone layer hole in the upper atmosphere. This radiation may damage both plants’ morphology and genes. Water Pollution is the most important cause that impact plant. Pollutants from water can pass to the aquatic and terrestrial plants. Those pollutants can be transferred to upper chain food. The increase of sodium chloride in water kills the plant. Soil pollution may cause severe impact on the plant. Artificial and chemical pesticides and fertilizers can’t be broken. As a result, they discharge into soil and mix with water. It affects the fertility of the soil.

Some strategies are put in place to overcome the impact of threats. In the UK, the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, is established. It prevents any removal of any wild plant without obtaining permission from the landowner or occupiers. This is a crucial piece of legislation. It protects the wild plants and wild biodiversity. Protected areas and National Parks are also one of the most essential and fundamental strategies in order to conserve plant species. In the UK, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland are an excellent strategy. An example of the effectiveness of the National Park is The Tijuca National Park. It is a home of 67 threatened plant species in Brazil, and it represents 16% of all endangered species in the state of Rio de Janeiro (Pougy et al., 2014).

The Kyoto Protocol, another an effective strategy to control climate change by reducing emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). It includes replanting and afforestation of plants to control carbon emissions. Although this strategy is not related directly to plant conversation, the encouragement of replantation can be considered a method or plant conservation. In Article 3.3, industrial countries can invest in land use and forestry activities. I believe it might be effective. Nevertheless, the US Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act have been established to control pollution. The clean air act succeeded to reduce air pollution resulting an improvement in crops and timber yields. Clean Water act is the most successful environmental law. As a result, the two-third of the US waters are now safe for fishing. The amount of soil loss to agriculture is reduced by a million tons annually, and the phosphate and nitrate levels are reduced (Martins, 2015).

From the previous strategies, I can say that there is not a particular strategy that is designed to conserve the botanical life. Most of the strategies are established to preserve both animals and plant biodiversity. I think we need to consider botanical life as it is the base of the life on earth.

Species Preservation and their relevance to biodiversity

There are many methods to preserve and record plant species for future use. Seed banks, In situ conservation and fossils, are some examples of plant preservation and records. Seed banks are places used to store seeds. Seeds may be food crops and some of the rare species to protect biodiversity. Global Seed Banking preserves the genetic diversity and saves seeds from diseases.  There are more than 1400 seed banks work as a backup in case of any environmental catastrophe (Penn State Ag Science Magazine, 2015). Seed banks protect seeds from animal and extreme conditions. Liquid nitrogen is used to preserve seeds by freezing. Seed banks are sometimes imperative to biodiversity. The re-introduction of some seeds in biodiversity can help to restore biodiversity. However, the seeds that have passed through the regeneration process may be affected, and it will be unable to grow and reproduce if they have introduced to natural habits.

In situ conservation is established to preserve natural habitats. The primary role of it is to protect, manage, and monitor natural habitats. It will help species to adapt gradually to changes in environmental conditions. It is used to recover threatened and/ or rare wild species. In-Situ Conservation has a broad range coverage in all the world. It helps to protect a wide range of indigenous species and taking care of the unknown species. It helps biodiversity to heal by natural selection and community evolution continue. It also has some risks to biodiversity. It might cause environmental uncertainty due to unpredictable weather conditions or disturbance in the food supply and the population of competitors. Environmental catastrophe might be an enormous risk to In-situ conservation. Random changes in genetic that impact the reproduction of species.

Fossils

Fossils can be one of the methods to preserve plant species for future use and study. There are two types of fossilization; Macro-fossilization and Microfossilization. Macrofossilization protects the plant leaves. Fossilization happens in low lands where there was a precipitation of the products of erosion and weathering of rocks, silt, sand and some chemicals. Micofossilization is the preservation of spores of ferns, bryophyte and pollen grains of conifers and flowering plants. Some plants, especially lowlands, are more commonly preserved as fossils. Fossils are not directly relevant to the biodiversity, but it can be a recordkeeping of changes that happened during geological time. It might help scientists, especially botanists, to study the future of a given biodiversity by studying the fossils of the plant (flora). As a geologist, I believe that fossils are paramount in studying biodiversity and also for future studies.

Botanical Science

There are many botanists have studied plants using several strategies. Theophrastus has named by Father of Botany as he was the first real botanist. He concerned to study plant morphology, classification, and the natural history of the plant. After Theophrastus, Pedanius Dioscorides, he described around 600 kinds of plants as he focused on their habit of growth (Gledhill, 2008). He started to mention the medicinal properties of some plants. He was the first one who illustrates the treatment by using medicinal plants. Pliny the Elder prepared an encyclopedia of around 37 volumes and gathering around 2000 works of 146 Roman and 327 Greek authors all about plants (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).  This work is an exquisite reference for researchers and students. In the 15th and the 16th centuries, the printing press revolution made all type of literature available. It has been used to publish a descriptive publishing regarding plants and its benefits as medicine.

Plant recognition and classification were based on morphological aspects of the plant until the invention of a simple lens and compound microscopes in the 16th century. They helped botanists to explore more characters of plants. It enriched the botany science and made some new features of plants available for study. It helped botanists to begin to describe all plants including the newly introduced plants that are coming from Asia, Africa and America and away from its medical benefits. Robert Hooke published Micrographia, in 1665, (Ucmp.berkeley.edu, 2015), as he used microscopic observation to discover plant tissues. Plant anatomy is first founded by Nehemiah Grew and Marcello Malpighi in 1671 (Canguilhem, Marrati, and Meyers, 2008). Stephan Hales has recorded his observation on the water path in plants. It is the first discussion in the plant physiology. Botanists have still studied his notes about the mechanism of water transpiration in the plant.

Linnaeus has developed the botany science as he introduced a “sexual system” of the plant. He also published “Species Plantarum” which contains a description of a vast number of species of plants. Charles Darwin has introduced new concepts on evolution, and Gregor Mendel on genetics helped a new branch of botany to arise, plant taxonomy. Paleontologists, the ecologists, and the archeologists used radioactive-carbon dating of plant materials to provide insight studies about the plant.

Botanists tried to study plants and their benefits to record, preserve and protect plant species.  All the above-mentioned botanists have recorded their observation to be used by other botanists and students as references. Nowadays, some strategies of plant conservation are used to preserve and record plant species. This strategy is imperative and also very effective in plant conservation.

References:

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