Where Would Life Be Without Plants?

sundew photo

photo: Jukka via flickr.

Forgive the bad play on words, but one of this Sunday's episodes of Life over on our big brother Discovery Channel (that's 8pm ET by the way) is all about this planet's vast plant kingdom and all the different challenges they face: Struggling to get enough sunlight, making the most out of available water, turning carnivorous and luring animals to their doom. Here on TreeHugger though, much of our plant coverage focuses on human's interaction with them:

deforestation photo

photo: World Resources Institute via flickr.
Eastern US Forests Show 'Significant' Declines in Past 40 Years
Though the trend for much of the 20th century was towards more forest cover in the eastern US, with trees reclaiming land formerly used for agriculture, new research shows that in the last 30 years of the century that trend reversed as timber, urban expansion and coal mining took their toll. Since 1973, the east coast saw a 4.1% decline in forests.

Tropical Deforestation Brings Economic Boom, Followed by Human & Ecological Bust
In many poor nations in the tropics the lure of money is too great and our forests suffer because of it. The trouble is, the financial gains from converting lands from forest to other uses are short-lived. Research in the Amazon shows that once some initial gains are made, both communities and the forest languish.

Urbanization & Export-Led Agriculture Now Main Causes of Deforestation
At one time deforestation was largely blamed on slash-and-burn agriculture, and it in some circles it was assumed that as more people moved to the cities, we'd see signs of recovery in forests. Too bad that's not borne out by facts at this point. Subsistence agriculture is no longer the main cause of deforestation, being replaced by expanding urban areas and export-led agriculture.

cherry blossoms photo

photo: Ben via flickr.
Warmer Temps Mean UK Flowers Emerging Earlier Than At Any Time In Past 250 Years
When you've got a instrumental temperature record that goes back to 1659 you've got a lot to work with. And an examination of that record--in the Central England Temperature Record--reveals that plants in the UK are flowering on average earlier than at any time in the past two and a half centuries. Overall, spring is arriving 11 days earlier than it did 30 years ago.

Tokyo Cherry Blossom Viewing Season Opens Early For Fourth Straight Year: Global Warming to Blame?
Now something like this happening for just four years isn't really enough to ascribe it to global warming, but it is noteworthy: As of last year, the start of the cherry blossom viewing season in Tokyo began earlier than normal for another straight year. Some researchers predict that by the end of the 21st century, cherry blossoms in Japan could be blooming up to three weeks earlier than they do currently, so sometime in the middle of February.

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More on Life:
Vast Variety of Insects is Inspiration for Upcoming Episode of "Life"
Life as You've Never Seen It on Planet Green
Creatures of the Deep a Focus for Upcoming Life Episode

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