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Plant ecology

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**1. Historical Development of Plant Ecology:**
– Originated from the application of plant physiology to questions raised by plant geographers.
– Alexander von Humboldt linked plant distributions with environmental factors.
– Carl Ludwig Willdenow observed climate-vegetation relationships.
– Joakim Frederik Schouw linked plant distributions to temperature.
– Simon Schwendener connected plant morphology with physiological adaptations.

**2. Plant Distribution and Communities:**
– Influenced by historical factors, ecophysiology, and biotic interactions.
– Species must evolve or disperse to survive local conditions.
Plant communities categorized into biomes based on dominant species.
– Grasslands dominated by grasses, forests by trees.
– Biotic interactions shape plant community composition.

**3. Photosynthesis and its Impact:**
– Vital process creating glucose and oxygen for plant life.
– Plants played a key role in Earth’s oxygenated atmosphere.
Plant photosynthesis led to increasing oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide levels.
– Evolution of plants and Earth’s climate control linked to photosynthesis.

**4. Plant Ecology Levels and Concepts:**
– Divided into ecophysiology, population, community, ecosystem, landscape, and biosphere ecology.
– Challenges in observing nutrient uptake and species interactions.
– Different approaches to reproduction and mutualism compared to animal ecology.
– Multiple perspectives needed to effectively address plant ecology problems.

**5. Biological Interactions in Plant Ecology:**
– Plants require basic elements like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.
– Competition for resources varies from symmetric to size asymmetric.
– Mutualism, parasitism, commensalism, and herbivory are key interactions.
– Abundance measures, colonization, and local extinction processes impact plant distribution.
– Understanding life forms, reproduction methods, and plant parasitism dynamics is crucial.

Plant ecology (Wikipedia)

Plant ecology is a subdiscipline of ecology that studies the distribution and abundance of plants, the effects of environmental factors upon the abundance of plants, and the interactions among plants and between plants and other organisms. Examples of these are the distribution of temperate deciduous forests in North America, the effects of drought or flooding upon plant survival, and competition among desert plants for water, or effects of herds of grazing animals upon the composition of grasslands.

A tropical plant community on Diego Garcia
Rangeland monitoring using Parker 3-step Method, Okanagan Washington 2002

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. Photosynthesis is the process of a chemical reactions to create glucose and oxygen, which is vital for plant life. 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.

One of the early classic books on plant ecology was written by J.E. Weaver and F.E. Clements. It talks broadly about plant communities, and particularly the importance of forces like competition and processes like succession. The term ecology itself was coined by German biologist Ernst Haeckel.

Plant ecology can also be divided by levels of organization including plant ecophysiology, plant population ecology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, landscape ecology and biosphere ecology.

First, most plants are rooted in the soil, which makes it difficult to observe and measure nutrient uptake and species interactions. Second, plants often reproduce vegetatively, that is asexually, in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish individual plants. Indeed, the very concept of an individual is doubtful, since even a tree may be regarded as a large collection of linked meristems. Hence, plant ecology and animal ecology have different styles of approach to problems that involve processes like reproduction, dispersal and mutualism. Some plant ecologists have placed considerable emphasis upon trying to treat plant populations as if they were animal populations, focusing on population ecology. Many other ecologists believe that while it is useful to draw upon population ecology to solve certain scientific problems, plants demand that ecologists work with multiple perspectives, appropriate to the problem, the scale and the situation.

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