• People and plants: the unbreakable bond

      Knapp, S (New Phytologist Trust, 2018-12-05)
      Societal Impact Statement Plants are crucial for human survival, providing nutrition, warmth, clothing, and shelter, as well as the air that we breathe. Plants also enhance our environment by making it more beautiful and thereby enriching our lives and increasing our wellbeing. We need to study plants more and better understand their biodiversity so that we can conserve and safeguard their future to create an ecological civilization. Plant scientists must work together with other members of human societies to ensure the survival of these crucial organisms upon which we are reliant. Summary We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, which will have unknown but potentially devastating consequences for the Earth's planetary systems. Before we can conserve biodiversity, however, we must understand it, both as a concept and by performing an assessment of the diversity of life on our planet. Here, I highlight and explore the relationships between people and plants. Plants perform a diverse array of ecosystem processes, which provide us with a huge number of ecosystem services. We have domesticated a relatively tiny number of plant species to better optimize some of the products they provide us, including food, fiber, and fuel, but our relationships even with these few species are complex. Using the Solanaceae as an example, I explore the cultural, societal, economic, and nutritional aspects of our relationships with crop plants, as well as our use and knowledge of the genetic diversity stored in their wild relatives. Conserving plant biodiversity is vital for ourselves and for the rest of the biosphere, but plant scientists cannot achieve this alone. Highlighting the importance of biodiversity is key to attract public support and collaboration, enabling us to better map diversity and understand the impacts of our local behaviors on a global scale.