What Is Plant Diversity?

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Diversity comes from adaptation and species conflict.
Diversity comes from adaptation and species conflict.

Plant diversity refers to the variety of plants that exist in the world. Plants compete with other plants and organisms to survive in an ecosystem. Over time, they develop various characteristics to help them survive, which leads to plant diversity. Plant diversity is important because various species come to depend on each other; therefore, eliminating one species can cause several other species to suffer.

  1. Adaptation

    • Moving a plant species to a new environment can cause problems for other plants in that environment that have not developed the characteristics that allow them to compete with these foreign plants. When gardeners get exotic plants for their gardens, they might not realize that these plants are used to interacting with other plant species, which might require that the gardener include more than one species type in the garden. Such foreign plants may become invasive if they outcompete with native species for available resources.

    Conservation

    • Conservationists seek to preserve the diversity of plant species by protecting ecosystems that contain rare plant species. Human action has played the largest role in reducing plant diversity by destroying ecosystems and species that maintain balances that allow diverse plants to survive. Since conservationists have limited resources, they must identify which areas can preserve the greatest diversity of plant species. However, as areas develop even greater species variety, the conservationists have a more difficult time estimating how many plant species are available.

    Nutrient Abundance

    • Areas that receive a lot of sunlight and have greater access to water and nutrients tend to exhibit the largest diversity of plants, since there are many lifeforms that can survive in that type of environment. In more barren areas, many species die off, reducing the diversity. Exotic plant species might not thrive in gardens that have periods of drought or colder weather.

    Diversity in the Home Garden

    • Gardeners tend to use plants in some classifications more than in others. Green algae, the most simplistic of all plant species, mostly only grows in garden ponds or other still water, where it rapidly becomes invasive without regular controls. Some gardens, especially Japanese gardens, like to incorporate moss. Most home gardeners plant trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers or fruiting plants. The trees and shrubs can help provide privacy, shade and natural beauty. The flowers are kept mostly for their colorful blooms, though some flowers produce edible fruit. Some gardeners grow their own food in vegetable gardens. Horticultural centers mostly stock a variety of plants, trending toward the most popular species.

    Climate Change

    • The diversity of plants may drop during climate change. As temperatures change in diverse regions, even by just a few degrees, species can lose their ability to adapt, and die off. Other areas warm up and become more ideal for plant growth, but plant diversity takes a very long time to develop.

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  • Photo Credit Growth image by Antonio Oquias from Fotolia.com

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