Acid Precipitation

forest damaged by acid rain
forest damaged by acid rain

Acid precipitation is rain, snow, or mist which has a pH lower than unpolluted precipitation. Increased levels of acid precipitation have significant effects on food chains and ecosystems.

Precipitation—rain, snow, hail, sleet, or mist—is naturally acidified by carbonic acid (H2CO3). Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reacts with water molecules, lowering the pH of precipitation to 5.6. A pH scale is used to measure a solution’s acidity or alkalinity; pH is defined as the negative logarithm of the concentration of hydrogen ions, H+ . A solution with a pH of 7.0 is neutral. A pH lower than 7 is acidic, and a pH greater than 7 is alkaline.

Other acidic substances are also present in the atmosphere, causing "unpolluted" precipitation to have a pH approaching 5.0. Solutions with a pH of 5.0 or less have concentrations of hydroxyl ion, or OH , and carbonate ion, or CO3 , approaching zero.

Adaptations

Water lilies, a kind of adaptations
Water lilies, a kind of adaptations

The results of natural selection in which succeeding generations of organisms become better able to live in their environments are called adaptations. Many of the features that are most interesting and beautiful in biology are adaptations. Specialized structures, physiological processes, and behaviors are all adaptations when they allow organisms to cope successfully with the special features of their environments.

Adaptations ensure that individuals in populations will reproduce and leave well-adapted offspring, thus ensuring the survival of the species. Adaptations arise through mutations—inheritable changes in an organism’s genetic material.

These rare events are usually harmful, but occasionally they give specific survival advantages to the mutated organism and its offspring. When certain individuals in a population possess advantageous mutations, they are better able to cope with their specific environmental conditions and, as a result, will contribute more offspring to future generations than those individuals that lack the mutation.

Active Transport

Active transport is the process by which cells expend energy to move atoms or molecules across membranes, requiring the presence of a protein carrier, which is activated by ATP. Cotransport is active transport that uses a carrier that must simultaneously transport two substances in the same direction. Countertransport is active transport that employs a carrier that must transport two substances in opposite directions at the same time.

Biologists in nearly every field of study have discovered that one of the major methods by which organisms regulate their metabolisms is by controlling the movement of molecules into cells or into organelles such as the nucleus.

This regulation is possible because of the semipermeable nature of cellular membranes. The membranes of all living cells are fluid mosaic structures composed primarily of lipids and proteins. The lipid molecules are aliphatic, which means that their molecular structure exhibits both a hydrophilic (water-attracted) and a hydrophobic (water-repelling) portion.

These aliphatic molecules form a double layer: The hydrophilic heads are arranged opposite one another on the inner and outer surfaces, and the hydrophobic tails are aligned across from one another within the interior, sandwiched between the hydrophilic heads. The protein in the membrane is interspersed periodically throughout the lipid bilayer.

Adaptive Radiation

In adaptive radiation, numerous species evolve from a common ancestor introduced into an environment with diverse ecological niches. The progeny evolve genetically into customized variations of themselves, each adapting to survive in a particular niche.

In 1898 Henry F. Osborn identified and developed the evolutionary phenomenon known as adaptive radiation, whereby different forms of a species evolve, quickly in evolutionary terms, from a common ancestor.

According to the principles of natural selection, organisms that are the best adapted (most fit) to compete will live to reproduce and pass their successful traits on to their offspring. The process of adaptive radiation illustrates one way in which natural selection can operate when members of one population of a species are cut off or migrate to a different environment that is isolated from the first.

Such isolation can occur from one patch of plantings to another, from one mountain top or hillside to another, from pond to pond, or from island to island. Faced with different environments, the group will diverge from the original population and in time become different enough to form a new species.

African Agriculture

African Agriculture
African Agriculture

Soil and climatic conditions throughout Africa determine not only agricultural practices, such as which crops can be grown, but also whether plant life is capable of sustaining livestock on the land and enabling fishing of the oceans.

Rainfall—the dominant influence on agricultural output—varies greatly among Africa’s fifty-six countries. Without irrigation, agriculture requires a reliable annual rainfall of more than 30 inches (75 centimeters). Portions of Africa have serious problems from lack of rainfall, such as increasing desertification and periods of drought.

Food output has declined, with per capita food production 10 percent less in the 1990’s than it was in the 1980’s. In most African countries, however, more than 50 percent, and often 80 percent, of the population works in agriculture, mostly subsistence agriculture. Large portions of the continent, such as Mali and the Sudan, have the potential of becoming granaries to much of the continent and producing considerable food exports.

African Flora

African Flora
African Flora

With few exceptions, Africa’s flora (vegetation) is tropical or subtropical. This is primarily because none of the African continent extends far from the equator, and there are only a few high-elevation regions that support more temperate plants.

Listed in order of decreasing land area, the three main biomes of Africa are subtropical desert, tropical savanna, and tropical forest. The flora in southern Africa has been most studied. The flora of central and northern Africa is less known.

The subtropical desert biome is the driest of the biomes in Africa and includes some of the driest locations on earth. The largest desert region is the Sahara in northern Africa. It extends from near the west coast of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and is part of the largest desert system in the world, which extends into south central Asia.

Experimental Crops

Experimental Crops
Experimental Crops

Experimental crops are foodstuffs with the potential to be grown in a sustainable manner, produce large yields, and reduce people’s reliance on the traditional crops wheat, rice, and corn.

Shifting from a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian society led to increasingly larger-scale agricultural production that involved selecting local crops for domestication. In recent history there has been a reduction in the number of agricultural crops grown for human consumption.

There are estimated to be at least 20,000 species of edible plants on earth, out of more than 350,000 known species of higher plants. However, only a handful of crops feed most of the world’s people.

Agricultural Revolution

Agricultural Revolution
Agricultural Revolution

The agricultural revolution marked the transition by humans from hunting and gathering all their food to domesticating plants for food.

People first obtained their food by scavenging kills made by other animals, by hunting animals, and by gathering wild food plants. Between ten thousand and twelve thousand years ago, people began to use plants in new ways. Some scientists and historians call this period of time the "agricultural revolution".

Agricultural Beginnings

Before the 1960’s,many scientists and historians believed that hunter-gatherers abruptly switched from foraging to farming. Those who thought that agriculture arose quickly coined the term "agricultural revolution".

Marine Agriculture

Marine Agriculture
Marine Agriculture

Marine agriculture uses techniques of artificial cultivation, such as growing, managing, and harvesting, and applies them to marine plants and animals. The products are then used for human consumption.

Marine agriculture is also known as mariculture or aquaculture, although aquaculture is a more general term referring to both freshwater and marine farming of organisms. The world’s oceans cover approximately three-fourths of the globe, including vast regions of unexplored life and landforms.

The potential for exploiting the oceans agriculturally is great but currently meets significant obstacles. Because of the expense of equipment and personnel involved, most marine species are not cultivated.

Modern Agriculture Problems

Modern Agriculture
Modern Agriculture

Many current problems in agriculture are not new. Erosion and pollution, for example, have been around as long as agriculture. However, agriculture has changed drastically within its ten-thousand-year history, especially since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the seventeenth century.

Erosion and pollution are now bigger problems than before and have been joined by a host of other issues that are equally critical—not all related to physical deterioration.

Monoculture

Modern agriculture emphasizes crop specialization, also known as monoculture. Farmers, especially in industrialized regions, often grow a single crop on much of their land. Problems associated with this practice are exacerbated when a single variety or cultivar of a species is grown. Such a strategy allows the farmer to reduce costs, but it also makes the crop, and thus the farmand community, susceptible to widespread crop failure.

Traditional Agriculture

Traditional Agriculture
Traditional Agriculture
Two agricultural practices that are widespread among the world’s traditional cultures, slash-and-burn agriculture and nomadism, share several features. Both are ancient forms of agriculture, both involve farmers not remaining in a fixed location, and both can pose serious environmental threats if practiced in a nonsustainable fashion.

The most significant difference between the two is that slash-and-burn is associated with raising field crops, while nomadism usually involves herding livestock.

Slash-and-Burn Agriculture

Farmers have practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, which is also referred to as shifting cultivation or swidden agriculture, in almost every region of the world where farming is possible.

Although at the end of the twentieth century slash-and-burn agriculture was most commonly found in tropical areas such as the Amazon River basin in South America, swidden agriculture once dominated agriculture in more temperate regions, such as northern Europe. Swidden agriculture was, in fact, common in Finland and northern Russia well into the early decades of the twentieth century.

Agriculture: World Food Supplies

World Food Supplies
World Food Supplies

Soil types, topography, climate, socioeconomics, dietary preferences, stages in agricultural development, and governmental policies combine to give a distinctive personality to regional agricultural characteristics and, hence, food supplies in various areas of the world.

All living things need food to live, grow, work, and survive. Almost all foods that humans consume come from plants and animals. Not all of earth’s people eat the same foods, however. The types, combinations, and amounts of food consumed by different peoples depend upon historic, socioeconomic, and environmental factors.

History of Food Consumption

Early in human history, people ate what they could gather or scavenge. Later, people ate what they could plant and harvest and the products of animals they could domesticate. Modern people eat what they can grow, raise, or purchase.

Agronomy

Agronomy
Agronomy

Agronomy is a group of applied science disciplines concerned with land and soil management and crop production. Agronomists’ areas of interest range from soil chemistry to soil-plant relationships to land reclamation.

The word "agronomy" derives from the ancient Greek agros (field) and nemein (manage) and therefore literally means "field management". The American Society of Agronomy defines agronomy as "the theory and practice of crop production and soil management". There are many specialties within the study of agronomy.

Agronomic Specialties

Agronomy is the family of disciplines investigating the production of crops supplying food, forage, and fiber for human and animal use. It studies the stewardship of the soil upon which those crops are grown. Agronomy covers all aspects of the agricultural environment, from agroclimatology to soil-plant relationships.

It includes crop science, soil science, weed science, and biometry (the statistics of living things) as well as crop, soil, pasture, and range management; turfgrass; agronomic modeling; and crop, forage, and pasture production andutilization.

Algae

Red algae
Red algae

Algae comprise a diverse group of (with few exceptions) photosynthetic oxygen-producing organisms, ranging in size from microscopic single cells to gigantic seaweeds.

The study of algae is known as phycology (in Greek, phycos means "algae"). Currently, most authors place eukaryotic algae in the kingdom Protista (domain Eukarya) and prokaryotic algae in the domain Bacteria.

In the past algae were considered to be lower plants because some forms look like plants. As in plants, the primary photosynthetic pigment in algae is chlorophyll a, and oxygen is produced during photosynthesis.

What Are Algae?

Algae can be found nearly everywhere on earth: oceans, rivers, lakes, in the snow of mountaintops, on forest and desert soils, on rocks, on plants and animals (such as within the hollow hair of the polar bear), or even on other algae. They are involved in diverse interactions with other organisms, including symbiosis, parasitism, and epiphytism.

Allelopathy

Allelopathy
Allelopathy

Allelopathy refers to all the biochemical interactions, both beneficial and harmful, among all types of plants, including microorganisms.

For an allelopathic interaction to occur, chemicals must be released into the environment by one plant that will affect the growth of another. In this way allelopathy differs from competition, which involves removal of some factor from the environment that is shared with other plants. Allelopathy was recognized as early as Theophrastus (300 b.c.e.), who pointed out that chick pea plants destroy weeds growing around them.

Methods of Action

Avariety of different allelochemicals are produced by plants, usu- ally as secondary metabolites that do not have a specific function in the growth and development of the host plant but that do affect the growth of other plants. Originally plant physiologists thought these secondary products were simply metabolic wastes which plants had to store because they do not have an excretory system as animals do. Their various functions are now beginning to be understood.

One class of allelochemicals, coumarins, block or slow cell division in the affected plant, particularly in root cells. In thisway growth of competing plants is inhibited, and seed germination can be prevented. Several kinds of allelochemicals, including flavonoids, phenolics, and tannins, suppress or alter hormone production or activity in competing plants.

Alternative Grains

Alternative Grains
Alternative Grains

Alternative grains refers to alternatives to high-yield grain crops, the harvest of which has led to severe soil erosion and increased use of fertilizers and pesticides.

More than one-half of the calories consumed daily by humans comes from grains. Most of these grains are produced by plants of the grass family, Poaceae. Major cereal plants domesticated centuries ago include rice (Oryza sativa), wheat (Triticum aestivum), and corn (Zea mays). Other important grain crops, also plants of the grass family, include barley (originating in Asia), millet and sorghum (originating in Africa), and oats and rye (originating in Europe).

Grain Genetics

Since the early twentieth century, the scientific principles of genetics have been applied to improvements of crop plants. Some notable improvements occurred between 1940 and 1970. As a result of irrigation, improved genetic varieties, and the use of large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, yields of major crops greatly increased.

Anaerobes and Heterotrophs

Anaerobes
Anaerobes

The first organisms to evolve on the earth are thought to have been heterotrophs and anerobes. Heterotrophs are organisms that cannot produce their own food but must fill their energy requirements by consuming organic molecules produced by other processes or organisms. Anaerobes are organisms that do not require free oxygen gas in order to survive; for some anaerobes, free oxygen may be poisonous.

Heterotrophs include many familiar organisms (such as animals) whose existence is tied to primary producers, those organisms that create energy-storing molecules, such as photosynthesizing plants. Anaerobes also are common, though less apparent. Typically, they are microscopic organisms restricted to living in a few surface environments where oxygen is absent.

It may seem strange, then, that these organisms were perhaps the first organisms to have evolved on the earth. Yet the combination of the heterotrophic lifestyle and the anaerobic life requirement is consistent with what is known about the conditions of the early earth’s surface environment.

Anaerobic Photosynthesis

Anaerobic photosynthesis, also known as anoxygenic photosynthesis, is the process by which certain bacteria use light energy to create organic compounds but do not produce oxygen. Anaerobes are those bacteria that cannot use oxygen to generate energy.

The photosynthetic process in all plants and algae, as well as in specific types of bacteria, involves the reduction of carbon dioxide to carbohydrate and the removal of electrons from water, resulting in the release of oxygen.

This process is known as oxygenic or aerobic photosynthesis. Water is oxidized by a multi-subunit protein located in the photosynthetic membrane. This is a molecular protein feature shared among more than 500,000 species of plants on earth.

While this is a common feature among nearly every form of plant life on earth, some photosynthetic bacteria can use light energy to extract electrons from molecules other than water. These bacteria are of ancient origin and are believed to have evolved before aerobic photosynthetic organisms.

Angiosperm Cells and Tissues

Angiosperm Cells and Tissues
Angiosperm Cells and Tissues

Some cell types and tissues which are not found in any other groups of plants occur in angiosperms (flowering plants).

Angiosperms are a group of plants with seeds that develop within an ovary and reproductive organs in flowers. They are commonly referred to as flowering plants and represent the most successful group of plants on earth, with approximately 235,000 species.

Various cell types and tissues, many of which are not found in any other groups of plants, occur in angiosperms. These cells and tissues perform varied functions, which are very efficient compared to their counterparts in other plants. These include dermal, vascular (xylem and phloem), and ground tissues (such as parenchyma, collenchyma, and sclerenchyma).

Angiosperm evolution

Angiosperm
Angiosperm

Angiosperms (flowering plants) appeared about 130 million years ago and today dominate the plant world, with approximately 235,000 species.

In early Devonian-age rocks, approximately 363- 409 million years old, fossils of simple vascular and nonvascular plants can be seen. Ferns, lycopods, horsetails, and early gymnosperms became prominent during the Carboniferous period (approximately 290-363 million years ago).

The gymnosperms were the dominant flora during the Age of Dinosaurs, the Mesozoic era (65-245million years ago). More than 130 million years ago, from the Jurassic period to early in the Cretaceous period, the first flowering plants, or angiosperms (phylum Anthophyta), arose. Over the following 40 million years, angiosperms became the world’s dominant plants.

Angiosperm Life Cycle

Angiosperm Life Cycle
Angiosperm Life Cycle

The word "angiosperm" comes from the Greek words for "vessel" and "seed" and translates roughly as "enclosed seed". In part, angiosperms (the flowering plants, phylumAnthophyta) are defined by the fact that their seeds are enclosed by an ovule. The life cycle of an angiospermis defined by the formation of the seed and its development to a full-grown plant which, in turn, produces seeds.

Angiosperms are vascular plants with flowers that produce seeds enclosed in an ovule—a fact that is recognized as the angiospermy condition.

Reproductive Flower Parts

In general, angiosperms have a floral axis with four floral parts, two of which are fertile. At the receptacle, or tip, of the axis there is an ovule-bearing leaf structure known as the carpel. The ovule or ovules can be found inside the pistil. Three portions compose the pistil: the ovary, the style, and the stigma, where the pollen usually germinates.

Angiosperm Plant Formation

Angiosperm Plant Formation
Angiosperm Plant Formation

Angiosperms are flowering plants. Their formation entails development from embryo to seed, through germination to seedling, and finally to mature plant.

The life cycle of angiosperms (flowering plants) involves an alternation of generations between a dominant sporophytic (spore-producing) phase and a reduced gametophytic (gamete-producing) phase. The first cell of the sporophyte is the fertilized egg, or zygote, which undergoes repeated divisions, growth, and differentiation to form an embryo enclosed in the ovule.

After fertilization, the ovule is transformed into the seed, which germinates into a seedling. The seedling becomes the adult plant; the plant produces flowers inwhich the sperm and egg—representing, respectively, the male and female gametophytic generations—are formed. Fertilization occurs, and seeds are produced to continue the life cycle.

Angiosperms

Angiosperms - Chinese Bladdernut Buds
Angiosperms - Chinese Bladdernut Buds

The name "angiosperms" has long been used by botanists to refer to the flowering plants, a group of approximately 235,000 species. All angiosperms are members of the phylum Anthophyta.

The name "angiosperm" is actually derived from two Greekwords, angeion,meaning "vessel" or "container", and sperma, meaning "seed". The name was given in reference to the fact that the seeds of all flowering plants develop from ovules that are enclosed in a structure called a carpel.

This characteristic sets the angiosperms apart from all other plants, which either do not have seeds or have seeds that are not developed in structures resembling a carpel. Although the name angiosperm is used widely, plant taxonomists and many botanists typically refer to them by the more formal name Anthophyta, the phylum that contains the flowering plants.

Unique Features of Angiosperms

In addition to possessing enclosed seeds, Anthophyta differs from other plant phyla in a number of ways. The most obvious distinguishing feature is the flower, a complex structure containing the reproductive parts of the plant. The reproductive structures in other plants are much less complex and showy. The angiosperm life cycle differs from that of almost all other plants.

Animal-plant Interactions

Animal-plant Interactions
Animal-plant Interactions

The ways in which certain animals and plants interact have evolved in some cases to make them interdependent for nutrition, respiration, reproduction, or other aspects of survival.

Ecology represents the organized body of knowledge that deals with the relationships between living organisms and their nonliving environments. Increasingly, the realm of ecology involves a systematic analysis of plant-animal interactions through the considerations of nutrient flow in food chains and food webs, exchange of such important gases as oxygen and carbon dioxide between plants and animals, and strategies of mutual survival between plant and animal species through the processes of pollination and seed dispersal.

A major example of animal-plant interactions involve the continual processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Green plants are classified as ecological producers, having the unique ability, by photosynthesis, to take carbon dioxide and incorporate it into organic molecules.

Animals are classified as consumers, taking the products of photosynthesis and chemically breaking them down at the cellular level to produce energy for life activities. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of this process.

Antarctica Flora

Antarctica Flora
Antarctica Flora

The harsh climate of Antarctica makes it one of the most inhospitable places on the earth, allowing only a relatively small number of organisms to live there. Permanent terrestrial (land) animals and plants are few and small. There are no trees, shrubs, or vertebrate land animals. Native organisms are hardy, yet the ecosystem is fragile and easily disturbed by human activity, pollution, global warming, and ozone layer depletion.

The Antarctic continent has never had a native or permanent population of humans. In 1998 the United States, Russia, Belgium, Australia, and several other countries signed one of an ongoing series of treaties to preserve Antarctica. The continent is used for peaceful international endeavors such as scientific research and ecotourism.

Terrestrial Flora

There are only two types of flowering plants in Antarctica, a grass and a small pearlwort (Deschampsia antarctica). These are restricted to the more temperate Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctic hairgrass (Colobanthus quitensis) forms dense mats and grows fairly rapidly in the austral summer (December, January, and February). At the end of summer, the hairgrass’s nutrients move underground, and the leaves die. Pearlwort forms cushion-shaped clusters and grows only 0.08 to 0.25 inch (2 to 6 millimeters) per year.

Aquatic Plants

The Lotus flower is a metaphor for Buddhism/a metaphor for life- the muddy swamp is where the Lotus Flower blooms
Aquatics plants - Lotus flower

Aquatic plants are any "true" plants, members of the kingdom Plantae, that are able to thrive and complete their life cycle while in water, on the surface of water, or on hydric soils.

Hydric soils developwhen the ground is flooded or ponded long enough during the growing season to become anaerobic (depleted of oxygen) in the rooting zone. These soils include organic (peats and mucks) and inorganic (mineral) sediments.

Aquatic plants grow in fresh, brackish, and salt water but are most common in fresh water. Their habitats include flowing waters (rivers, streams, brooks), standing waters (lakes, ponds), and wetlands (bogs, fens, marshes, swamps), which are categorized as riverine, lacustrine, and palustrine communities, respectively.

Wetland plants are sometimes referred to as helophytes. Marshes are dominated (that is, more than half covered) by herbaceous species and swamps by woody species. Bog plants are aquatics that grow in acidic organic soils. Fen plants occur in alkaline organic soils.

Archaea

Archaea
Archaea

The domain Archaea represents a diverse group of prokaryotes originally found in environments once considered to be hostile to life, now known to be widely distributed in nature.

The cycling of plant nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, requires the activity of microorganisms that convert these elements to forms readily available to plants. These microorganisms, which are generally found in both soil and water, include both prokaryotic organisms of the domain Bacteria and the domain of prokaryotes called Archaea, which play significant roles in nutrient cycling.

Along with Eukarya, to which protists, fungi, plants, and animals belong, the Archaea formone of the three domains of life. The Archaea are related to both Bacteria and Eukarya and, in some respects, appear to bemore closely related to Eukarya.

Biochemical and genetic studies, including information obtained from whole genome sequencing, suggest that Archaea may be closely related to an ancestor that gave rise to both Bacteria and Eukarya. Thus, Archaea may provide some insight into the processes that resulted in the evolution of higher life-forms, including plants and animals.

Arctic Tundra

A tiny creek flows through a tundra-covered valley, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska.
Arctic Tundra

The Arctic tundra is a biome representing the northernmost limit of plant growth on earth. Arctic tundra has a circumpolar distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, extending from the ice cap southward to the forested taiga of North America, Europe, and Asia. Tundra is also found on islands within the Arctic Ocean and along coastal Greenland.

The term "tundra" was derived from the Finnish word for a treeless or barren landscape. The Arctic tundra biome is located within one of the harshest climates on earth for plant growth, with winter temperatures averaging –34 degrees Celsius (–30 degrees Fahrenheit).

The climate is comparatively dry, with annual precipitation of 150 to 250 millimeters (6 to 10 inches). Locked in snow or frozen within soil, the majority of moisture is not available for plant use.

Ascomycetes

Aleuria aurantia. The Orange Peel Fungus is a widespread ascomycete fungus in the order Pezizales. The brilliant orange, cup-shaped ascocarps often resemble orange peels strewn on the ground, giving this species its common name.
Ascomycetes

The ascomycetes are fungi (phylum Ascomycota or Ascomycotina) that produce sexual spores in a specialized cell called an ascus. These diverse fungi, with more than thirty thousand species, can be found in almost every ecosystem worldwide. One of the most famous members of the ascomycetes is the truffle.

Ascomycetes, one of the four phyla of the fungus kingdom, by definition possess an ascus, a single cell inside of which sexual spores are produced.

The reproductive process has been well documented and occurs when the dikaryotic mycelium (the mass of hyphae forming the body) undergoes changes that precede the formation of the ascus. Dikaryotic is the genetic state in which two haploid nuclei are present in the cell. One nucleus is donated by each parent.

Asian Agriculture

Going to the Field with the Mom
Asian agriculture

Land constraints and growing population and urbanization throughout Asia underscore the need for environmentally sound technologies to sustain agricultural growth.

The first agricultural revolution occurred in Asia and involved the domestication of plants and animals. It is believed that vegeculture first developed in Southeast Asia more than eleven thousand years ago. In vegeculture, a part of a plant—other than the seed—is planted for reproduction.

The first plants domesticated in Southeast Asia were taro, yam, banana, and palm. Seed agriculture, now the most common type of agriculture, uses seeds for plant reproduction. It originated in the Middle East about nine thousand years ago, in the basins of the two major rivers of present-day Iraq, the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Wheat and barley were probably the first crops cultivated there. Although many plants were domesticated simultaneously in different parts of the world, rice, oats, millet, sugarcane, cabbage, beans, eggplant, and onions were domesticated originally in Asia.

Asian Flora

Asia has the richest flora of the earth’s seven continents
Asia has the richest flora of the earth’s seven continents

Asia has the richest flora of the earth’s seven continents. Because Asia is the largest continent, it is not surprising that 100,000 different kinds of plants grow within its various climate zones, which range from tropical to Arctic.

Asian plants, which include ferns, gymnosperms, and flowering vascular plants, make up 40 percent of the earth’s plant species. The endemic plant species come from more than forty plant families and fifteen hundred genera.

Asia is divided into five major vegetation regions based on the richness and types of each region’s flora: tropical rain forests in Southeast Asia, temperate mixed forests in East Asia, tropical rain/ dry forests in South Asia, desert and steppe in Central and West Asia, and taiga and tundra in North Asia.

Tropical Rain Forests

The Asian regions richest in flora, tropical rain forests, are found in the island nations of Southeast Asia, which extend from Kinabalu in the north to Java in the south, and from New Guinea in the east to Sumatra in thewest. In this vast archipelago, the longest island chain between Asia and Australia, are thirty-five thousand to forty thousand vascular plant species.

Australian Agriculture

Australian Agriculture
Australian Agriculture

Agriculture is an important part of Australia’s economy. Australia’s exports were overwhelmingly agricultural products until the 1960’s, when mining and manufacturing grew in importance.

Agriculture occupies 60 percent of the land area of Australia, but much of this is used for open-range cattle grazing, especially in huge areas of the states of Queensland and Western Australia. Only 5 percent of Australia’s agricultural land is used for growing crops.

Western Australia and New South Wales have the largest areas of cropland. The limited area suitable for growing commercial crops is limited mainly by climate, because Australia is the world’s driest continent.

Annual rainfall of about 20 inches (500 millimeters) is necessary to grow crops successfully without irrigation; less than half of Australia receives this amount, and the rainfall is often variable or unreliable.

Australian Flora

Tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, in eucalyptus forest, Ferntree Gully National Park, Australia
Australia flora

Australia broke off from the supercontinent Pangaeamore than fifty million years ago, and the species of plants living at that time continued to change and adapt to conditions on the isolated island. This led to distinctive plants, differing from those of the interconnected Eurasian-African-American landmass, where new immigrant species changed the ecology.

Many species of plants in Australia are found nowhere else on earth, except where they have been introduced by humans. Such species are known as endemic species. This distinctiveness is the result of the long isolation of the Australian continent from other landmasses.

Australian vegetation is dominated by two types of plants—the eucalyptus and the acacia. There are 569 known species of eucalypts and 772 species of acacia. Nevertheless, a great deal of botanical diversity exists throughout this large continent.

Autoradiography

Autoradiography
Autoradiography
Autoradiography produces an image formed by a substance’s own radioactivity when exposed to a photographic film. This technique is often used for investigation of biological processes.

In 1896 Antoine-Henri Becquerel was working with rocks containing uranium ore. By chance, he put one rock sample into a dark drawer on top of a box of unexposed photographic film. When the film later was developed, it showed a clear outline of the uranium rock.

Evidently, some radiation had been emitted from the rock, penetrated through the wrapping paper, and exposed the film inside. An autoradiograph, that is, an image produced by radioactivity, was visible on the film. Autoradiography, much refined, is now a valuable technique for investigating biological processes.

Hungarian chemist Georg von Hevesy pioneered the use of radioactive tracers in biological research in the 1920’s, and two developments in the 1930’s greatly expanded their use. Firstwas the discovery of induced radiation by Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Irène Joliot-Curie, which raised the exciting possibility that artificially created radioactivity could be induced in almost any element found in nature.

Bacterial Genetics

Bacterial Genetics
Bacterial Genetics

Bacterial genetics is the study of the genetic material of bacterial DNA, which can provide valuable insights into the process of mutation because of bacteria’s rapid rate of reproduction.

Plants were the original candidates for genetic studies, which began in the late 1800’s. Studies with animals soon followed; bacteria did not become candidates for such study until the mid-1940’s, when adequate technology for handling bacteria developed. Bacteria have become extremely useful organisms for genetic studies since the early 1950’s.

Two major features of bacteria make them desirable subjects. First, bacterial cells typically divide every twenty minutes. Their rapid rate of reproduction allows a very large number of bacteria to be produced in a short time. This, in turn, provides the researcher with more opportunity to detect the "rare genetic events" of mutation or recombination.

Bacteriophages

Bacteriophages
Bacteriophages

Viruses that attack bacterial cells are known as bacteriophages. Many results gained from studying bacteriophages have universal implications.

For example, the physical properties of DNA and RNA are remarkably identical in all organisms, and these are perhaps easiest to study in bacteriophage systems.

Bacteriophages, or phages for short, are viruses that parasitize bacteria. Viruses are an extra ordinarily diverse group of ultramicroscopic particles, distinct from all other organisms because of their noncellular organization.

Basidiomycetes

Flammulina velutipes is example of Basiodiomycetes also known as winter mushroom
Flammulina velutipes is example of Basiodiomycetes

The Basidiomycetes constitute the largest of the three classes of the Basidiomycota (basidiosporic fungi), a very large class of about fourteen thousand species of the most diverse terrestrial fungi.

The largest fungi belong in the Basidiomycetes class, as do some of the most unusual. All members of Basidiomycetes produce a basidium from hyphal cells and not from spores. (The basidiumis a cell produced at the end of a dikaryotic hypha.)

The basidium will produce either two or four spores as the result of meiosis. The basidium may be either a nonseptate cell, with two or four sterigmata (the basidiospore is produced on the end of the sterigma) at the apex, or it may be septate.

Basidioporic Fungi

Basidioporic Fungi
Basidioporic Fungi

Basidiosporic fungi (also known as the Basidiomycota or Basidiomycotina) are fungi that produce sexual spores on a specialized cell called a basidium.

The basidiosporic fungi are the most diverse phylum of the fungi world, with more than 22,300 species described. Some of the fungi in this phylum are microscopic, while the larger members of this group produce fruiting structures that are basketball-sized and weigh in excess of 10 pounds.

This phylum contains fungi that fall into three classes: mushroom, rusts, and smuts—and range widely in appearance, from the common mushroom to weblike fungi with an odor that can be detected at several feet.

Biochemical Coevolution in Angiosperms

Biochemical Coevolution in Angiosperms
Biochemical Coevolution in Angiosperms

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, produce many compounds that are not directly related to growth and development. These secondary metabolites arise from primary metabolic pathways and act as antiherbivory mechanisms, allelochemicals, or attractants.

Secondary metabolites are biochemicals produced by plants in response to selection pressures. These pressures may be from herbivory, competition, or the need for pollination.

As plants produce compounds to enhance their survival, predators, competitors, and pollinators react and evolve means of adjusting to the plant’s efforts. Chemically simple secondary metabolites may be widespread throughout angiosperm (flowering plant) families, whereas more complex chemicals are often restricted to a single species.

Biofertilizers

Biofertilizers
Biofertilizers
The use of biofertilizers, biological systems that supply plant nutrients such as nitrogen to agricultural crops, could reduce agriculture’s dependency on chemical fertilizers, which are often detrimental to the environment.

Plants require an adequate supply of the thirteen mineral nutrients necessary for normal growth and reproduction. These nutrients, which must be supplied by the soil, include both macronutrients (nutrients required in large quantities) and micronutrients (nutrients required in smaller quantities). As plants grow and develop, they remove these essential mineral nutrients from the soil.

Because normal crop production usually requires the removal of plants or plant parts, the nutrients are continuously removed from the soil. Therefore, the long-term agricultural utilization of any soil requires periodic fertilization to replace lost nutrients.

Nitrogen is the plant nutrient that is most often depleted in agricultural soils, and most crops respond to the addition of nitrogen fertilizer by increasing their growth and yield. Therefore, more nitrogen is applied to cropland than any other fertilizer component.

Biological Invasions

Biological Invasions
Biological Invasions

Biological invasions are the entry of a type of organism into an ecosystem outside its historic range. In a biological invasion, the "invading" organism may be an infectious virus, a bacterium, a plant, an insect, or an animal.

Species introduced to an area from somewhere else are referred to as alien or exotic species or as invaders. Because an exotic species is not native to the new area, it is often unsuccessful in establishing a viable population and disappears.

The fossil record, as well as historical documentation, indicates that this is the fate of many species in new environments as they move from their native habitats. Occasionally, however, an invading species finds the new environment to its liking.

Biological Weapons

Biological Weapons
Biological Weapons
Biological weapons are biological agents that can be used to destroy living organisms. This general definition includes the use of virtually any kind of microorganism (bacterium or fungus) or biological agent (mycoplasma like organism, virus, viroid, or prion) to destroy any biologically important plant or animal.

There are two basic ways of using biological weapons against humanity. The first is to attack the food or water supply. This would produce hardship and the possible death from starvation of many individuals. In developed countries such as the United States, total devastation due to such an attack would likely be avoided, as there are considerable stores of food, in dispersed locations, that would mitigate against crop failure of moderate proportions.

In addition, most experts agree that the amount of biological contaminant required to overcome the effects of dilution and time in most water reservoirs makes poisoning of water supplies impractical, although not impossible.

The other way of using biological weapons against humanity is to attack individuals directly, using pathogens. Numerous known pathogens could be used, but the most effective biological weapons would creep upon the population with stealth. Naturally occurring agents that have promise as biological weapons are pathogens, which can infect and colonize a host. A pathogen causes disease, an alteration in the metabolism of a host.

Bioluminesence

Bioluminesence fungus
Bioluminesence fungus

Bioluminesence is the production of light by living organisms, including algae and phytoplankton in the oceans and fungi on land.

Bioluminescence is a specific form of chemiluminescence in which the chemical energy that is produced in a chemical reaction is converted into radiant energy. In bioluminescence the reaction originates in a wide variety of living organisms, including a small number of plants. It should not be confused with fluorescence or phosphorescence, both of which do not involve a chemical reaction.

In either of the former cases the energy from a source of light, not from a chemical reaction, is basically absorbed and then re-emitted in some form of another photon. The chemical reactions that lead to bioluminescence release energy in the form of light.

Biomass Related to Energy

Biomass Related to Energy
Biomass Related to Energy
The relationship between the accumulation of living matter resulting from the primary production of plants or the secondary production of animals (biomass) and the energy potentially available to other organisms in an ecosystem forms the basis of the study of biomass related to energy.

Biomass is the amount of organic matter, such as animal and plant tissue, found at a particular time and place. The rate of accumulation of biomass is termed productivity. Primary production is the rate at which plants produce new organic matter through photosynthesis.

Secondary production is the rate at which animals produce their organic matter by feeding on other organisms. Biomass is an instantaneous measure of the amount of organic matter, while primary and secondary production give measures of the rates at which biomass increases.

Plant and animal biomass consists mostly of carbon-rich molecules, such as sugars, starches, proteins, and lipids, and other substances, such as minerals, bone, and shell. The carbon-rich organic molecules are not only the building blocks of life but also the energy-rich molecules used by organisms to fuel their activities.

Types of Biomes

Types of Biomes
Types of Biomes

The major recognizable life zones of the continents are divided into biomes, characterized by their plant communities.

Temperature, precipitation, soil, and length of day affect the survival and distribution of biome species. Species diversity within a biome may increase its stability and capability to deliver natural services, including enhancing the quality of the atmosphere, forming and protecting the soil, controlling pests, and providing clean water, fuel, food, and drugs. Major biomes include the temperate, tropical, and boreal forests; tundra; deserts; grasslands; chaparral; and oceans.

Temperate Forests

The temperate forest biome occupies the so called temperate zones in the midlatitudes (from about 30 to 60 degrees north and south of the equator). Temperate forests are found mainly in Europe, eastern North America, and eastern China, and in narrow zones on the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Pacific coasts of North and South America. Their climates are characterized by high rainfall and temperatures that vary from cold to mild.

Biopesticides

Biopesticides
Biopesticides
Biopesticides are biological agents, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, mites, and other organisms used to control insect and weed pests in an environmentally and ecologically friendly manner.

Biopesticides allow biologically based, rather than chemically based, control of pests. A pest is any unwanted animal, plant, or microorganism. When the environment provides no natural resistance to a pest and when no natural antagonists are present, pests can run rampant.

For example, spread of the fungus Endothia parasitica, which entered New York in 1904, caused the nearly complete destruction of the American chestnut tree because no natural control was present. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, mites, insects, and flowers have all been used as biopesticides.

Advantages of Biopesticides

Many plants and animals are protected from pests by passive means. For example, plant rotation is a traditional method of insect and disease protection that is achieved by removing the host plant long enough to reduce a region’s pathogen and pest populations.

Biosphere Concept

Biosphere Concept
Biosphere Concept

The term "biosphere" was coined in the nineteenth century by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess in reference to the 20-kilometer-thick zone extending from the floor of the oceans to the top of mountains, within which all life on earth exists.

Thought to be more than 3.5 billion years old, the biosphere supports nearly one dozen biomes, regions of climatic conditions within which distinct biotic communities reside.

Compounds of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur are cycled among the four major spheres, one of which is the biosphere, to make the materials that are essential to the existence of life.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology
Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the use of living organisms, or substances obtained from those organisms, to produce processes or products of value to humanity, such as foods, high-yield crops, and medicines.

Modern biotechnological advances have provided the ability to tap into a natural resource, the world gene pool, with such great potential that its full magnitude is only beginning to be appreciated.

Theoretically, it should be possible to transfer one or more genes from any organism in the world into any other organism. Because genes ultimately control how any organism functions, gene transfer can have a dramatic impact on agricultural resources and human health in the future.