Plant Ecology and Taxonomy

Plant ecology is a sub discipline of ecology which studies the distribution and abundance of plants, the effects of environmental factors upon the abundance of plants, and the interactions among and between plants and other organisms. A global overview of the Earth's major vegetation types is provided by O.W. Archibold. He recognizes 11 major vegetation types: tropical forests, tropical savannas, arid regions (deserts), Mediterranean ecosystems, temperate forest ecosystems, temperate grasslands, coniferous forests, tundra (both polar and high mountain), terrestrial wetlands, freshwater ecosystems and coastal/marine systems. This breadth of topics shows the complexity of plant ecology, since it includes plants from floating single-celled algae up to large canopy forming trees.

One feature that defines plants is photosynthesis. One of the most important aspects of plant ecology is the role plants have played in creating the oxygenated atmosphere of earth, an event that occurred some 2 billion years ago. It can be dated by the deposition of banded iron formations, distinctive sedimentary rocks with large amounts of iron oxide. At the same time, plants began removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby initiating the process of controlling Earth's climate. A long term trend of the Earth has been toward increasing oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide, and many other events in the Earth's history, like the first movement of life onto land, are likely tied to this sequence of events.

Plant taxonomy is the science that finds, identifies, describes, classifies, and names plants. Plant taxonomy is closely allied to plant systematics, and there is no sharp boundary between the two. In practice, "Plant systematics" involves relationships between plants and their evolution, especially at the higher levels, whereas "plant taxonomy" deals with the actual handling of plant specimens. The precise relationship between taxonomy and systematics, however, has changed along with the goals and methods employed. Plant taxonomy is well known for being turbulent, and traditionally not having any close agreement on circumscription and placement of taxa.

 

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