How Do We Depend on Photosynthesis?

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Photosynthesis is a chemical process that plants perform in order to get the energy that they need to survive and grow. The chemical that makes plants green, called chlorophyll, is the molecule that makes this reaction possible. Without photosynthesis, plants would not be able to get energy from the sun. The ability to create plant food from solar energy through photosynthesis is the process that underlies almost all life on Earth.

The Basics of Photosynthesis

  • Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction that uses nutrients from the soil, carbon dioxide and light energy from the sun to make glucose and oxygen. Plants are able to capture light energy from the sun by using the chemical that makes plants green, called chlorophyll. They use this captured light energy to make glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar and is the molecule that plants use for the energy that they need to grow and produce fruits and flowers.

Photosynthesis, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

  • One of the most important reasons that we depend on photosynthesis is because it produces oxygen and uses carbon dioxide. Every time you breathe, you breathe in oxygen from the atmosphere, and you breathe out carbon dioxide. If there were no plants to create oxygen, humans would eventually use up all the oxygen in the atmosphere and replace it with carbon dioxide. However, our atmosphere is kept in balance because plants use the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and create oxygen that we breathe in.

Photosynthesis and Food

  • Photosynthesis is necessary for plants to grow, develop, and reproduce because it provides the energy that plants need to do these things. Humans depend on plants to sustain our food chain. When we eat a salad, it is made of leaves and vegetables, and all of these come from plants that photosynthesized to get energy. When we eat beef, we are eating cows that ate grass -- a plant that grew through photosynthesis. Therefore, almost everything that we eat depends, directly or indirectly, on photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis and Plant Products

  • We use many plant products in our everyday life. Paper is made out of trees, many of our homes have wood beams and supports and many of our medicines come from plants. Photosynthesis is the process that helps plants to grow and develop and produce the wood and berries and chemicals that we use. Therefore, to maintain the life that we have, with products like paper and malaria drugs, we need plants to photosynthesize.

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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