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Book Review (Part 2): Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive by Stanley A. Rice

Author: Stanley A. Rice

Title of the Book: Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Pages: 314

Amazon.com || Barnes&Noble || Goodreads

Here comes the second part of my reviewing this book “Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive” by Stanley A. Rice. You can find the first part of the review here. In this blog post I am reviewing another 4 chapters of this book. Let’s have a look one by one.

Front Page

How Trees Provide Us Shade?

In this chapter, the author talks about transpiration, xylem tissues, stomata, etc. He explains how leaf area and number of stomata are related to each other. He talks about leaf area of one tree and then of a whole forest. He explains the physiology of plant (uptake of water, loss of water through stomata and cooling of plants).

The roots of the trees reach far down into the moist soil and draw water through the wood and into the leaves. The water evaporates from the leaves, cooling them. This process, transpiration, makes the tree into a gigantic green air conditioner.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 82)

He further explains how “heat islands” are generating due to deforestation. He highlights that industrialization, modernization, and urbanization contribute to rise in temperature.

Urban areas, consisting largely of buildings, streets, and parking lots, have very little plant cover. With little transpiration to cool them, many cities become “heat islands” that are much warmer than the surrounding forested areas. Studies in cities all over the world have confirmed this pattern.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 86)

One tree that should never be planted to counteract the heat island effect is the tamarisk, a small tree from the Middle East. It does not cost very much shade, and it transpires a lot of water. It is, furthermore, a highly aggressive invader along desert rivers and seasonal streams.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 88)

He suggests that green roofs on the top of multistory buildings may help in reducing heat in these buildings.

How Plants Prevent Drought and Floods?

In this chapter, he explains how plants and trees anchor to the soil and prevent runoff of water during heavy rain. Heavy rains generally wash off the topmost layer of soil and may cause floods.

If forests enhance the penetration of rain into the groundwater, then they should also promote the flow of water in rivers during dry seasons. If this is the case, then a bare hillside presents the humans that live at its base with the worst of both worlds: floods during rainy season, and drought during the dry season.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 99)

Destruction of the native plant cover, and the resulting soil erosion, may have caused climates to become drier throughout human history.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 102)

He gives examples of mud slides in Nepal to heavy floods in North America, drier climates in Australia to rainfall reduction in Amazon Rain forests. In later pages he also explains physiological drought and salinization. How salinization affects the water uptake in plants is explained in detail.

Forests are not just pretty green carpet on the landscape. They slow down the processes by which the landscape washes away, which can be disastrous for the cities perched precariously on it. Forests even out the flow of water, and they moderate the climate. They create a livable world not only in terms of oxygen, global temperature, and local temperature, but also in terms of water. The forests and fields of this lovely planet help to protect us from floods and droughts.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 109)

How Plants Feed the World?

This question is answered by the author in this chapter. We all know that plants are the producers and all other non-photosynthetic organisms are the consumers. So, there are food chains in the ecosystem that leads to food chain. Food energy keeps moving from one organism to another via food chain and food web. These are easy concepts to understand and author gives an elaborate explanation to the energy transfer in this chapter.

He further explains how beef production is a costly affair though he also points out that by being vegetarian would not solve the problem. You will be surprised to find that production, processing, refrigeration, and transportation of meat and meat products is too expensive. Livestock production and maintaining the meat and chicken are burden to the ecology by greenhouse effect.

Humans depend on the molecules produced by plants not only for food but for almost everything else. Plants produce all of these materials for their own use, but they happen to be useful to the human economy as well.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 125)

How Plants Create Soil and Prevent Erosion and Landslides?

In this chapter, the author explains how the plants feed on the soil and grows in the soil. He talks about bind on the soil, formation of humus, organic and inorganic components of soil, and erosion.

Destruction of vegetation can, in addition, allow wind and rain to erode much of the soil away and destroy the fertility of what remains. Soil erosion not only destroys fertility but also the ability of the soil to hold water.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 125)

He further explains what harms are caused by the erosion of soil. He explains the benefits of leguminous plants in the production of healthy and fertile soil.

How Plants Help in Creating Habitats?

In this chapter the author explains how the plants create home for other organisms. You can find plants everywhere and wherever they are, they have various organisms living on them. He gives examples of plants growing in the deciduous forests, tundra, temperate forests, deserts, mountains and in water.

Wild habitats are places where many thousands of species of organisms, from bacteria to bears, are found. But habitats are more than this. They are not merely places where organisms live but places that organisms create. Ant it is mainly plants that create these habitats. A forest is not merely a place that receives enough rainfall for trees to grow; it is the trees and other organisms

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planets How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, pg: 139)

He further explains how plants at different places differ from each other. Plants that grow in deciduous forests are different from that grow in temperate rainforests. Plants that grow in deserts are different from those that grow on the mountains and in water. The examples of forests and habitats listed in this book are numerous. All the habitats are explained in detail.

At last, the author also talks about the future of plant habitats. He explains how anthropogenic activities affect the ecosystem that further affect the habitats. He predicts that tundra habitat might disappear due to rise in temperature and global warming while other forests might migrate to other places.

With this, I come to the end of the second part of this book review. As we know that it is never late to start a good thing, we can still save our planet by doing little things. The book gives us enormous reasons to prove that plants are good for us and for the planet. Plants are the one that make our planet different from other planets. The book does its best to convince the reader, the importance of plants to us and to every living organism on the earth.

The book is highly informative for a beginner in science, an undergraduate student or for those who have interest in life sciences and environmental sciences. This book is also good for those who are eager to know and understand the various changes occurring in our surrounds related to weather and climate changes.

I hope, my review encourages you to give a read to this book, understand the concept and gain some knowledge. If you have a teenager eager to learn about plants and environment, I recommend you introduce this book to him/her. This book will surely develop interest of students in plants and sciences. My next blog post will be the last review of this book.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Stay safe, stay happy.

Book Review (Part 1): Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive by Stanley A. Rice

Front Cover

Author: Stanley A. Rice

Title of the Book: Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Pages: 314

Amazon.com || Barnes&Noble || Goodreads

What if I say, we already know everything mentioned in this book? Being a biologist and having a keen interest in environment, the topic covered in this book is not new to me but what fascinates me is the detailed explanation of the topics with figures, data and numbers.

It is not likely a type of book to be read by a person who has interest in fiction as it is a nonfiction, pure botany. If you have some interest in the environment and the plants that surround us, this book is for you. I would recommend this book to each one of us so that we can understand how important plants are to us and our planet.

Stanley A. Rice has done a wonderful job by writing a book wholly and solely dedicated to plants. He talks about forests, agriculture, green house gases, green house effects, global warming, ecological footprints, carbon emission, soil erosion, etc. He explains everything in detail, and you will enjoy as you move from one chapter to another.

What topics are covered in this book?

The book includes almost everything that relates to plants and the benefits they do to us. The book is divided into 12 chapters and consists of 314 pages. All the 12 chapters talk about how plants are important to sustain life on the Earth. As I mentioned earlier, the chapters are dedicated to plants as to how plants produce oxygen, how plants remove carbon dioxide, how plants prevent soil erosion, how plants provide shade, how plants prevent floods and droughts, how plants restore the destroyed habitats and most importantly how plants provide food to all other living organisms.

I can easily do a one post review about this book, but that will not be the justice to the book and the author. The topics are covered in detail and it’s important for everyone of us to know some important things that are mentioned in this book. So, I thought of dividing my book review in 3 parts. In this part I would review the first 3 chapters from the book. I hope you wouldn’t mind me being so elaborate.

How Agriculture Destroyed Forests?

The first thing that the author tries to put forward is “an injured paradise”. He explains how the greed of humans in different civilizations ruthlessly cut the trees, cleared forests and made lands for agriculture practices. Destruction of forests for agricultural lands and lumber often led to droughts.

Agriculture is hard work – the biblical story calls it “the sweat of your brow” – compared with hunting and gathering is relatively easy work.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 15)

Had agricultural practices not destroyed the fields and forests, these civilizations might have been able to survive the droughts that ended up destroying them.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 17)

He further explains how the Europeans exploited the North American forests through extensive deforestation for lumber and agricultural land and simultaneously also brought few diseases with them.

The author then talks about the destruction of deciduous forests followed by the fall in the tropical forests due to farming and human infiltration into the jungles.

Not only are the modern forests and fields a pale reflection of what they once were, but they shattered. What was once a vast uninterrupted natural world is now fragmented. Even the largest state and the national parks are small parcels compared with the primeval forest.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 23)

So, the author wants to convey the message that once a forest is destroyed it cannot be recreated by human means. Then he raises a question, how can the forests be saved? This question is not only for the biologists, botanists or environmentalists. This question is for each of us. Each one of us need to think about this.

We need to do something before its too late. We need to minimize our needs and wants. We need to be more reasonable and accountable for the actions that we do on the daily basis. We need to be sensible and wise while using the natural resources.

Its not that we are ignorant of these facts. The problem is we try to ignore and unhear them and thus do not act.

Our head acknowledge the crisis; our hearts do not, and thus we hesitate.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 25)

To anyone who loves the forests and fields, it is sad to see what many centuries, and especially the past century, of human activity have done to the green world of plants. But it is not just a loss to those who feel inspired by a poetic spirit in the woods. It is a loss that threatens everyone who breathes, eats, and drinks – that is, everyone.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 25)

How Plants Produce Oxygen?

Have you ever wondered from where does so much oxygen comes that all of us are able to breathe? What will happen if our planet loses the oxygen we breathe? On the planet Earth, the life exists due to two things: oxygen and water. Who produces oxygen? None other than plants, the primary producers in our ecosystem.

Picture Curtsey: Wikimedia Commons

The next thing that the author talks about is how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis. We all know photosynthesis is the process responsible for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. He gives a detailed picture of this process, explaining the process on the molecular level.

In order to feel gratitude for the silent, clean, tireless work that plants perform, it is necessary to do no more than to take a deep breath.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 28)

The author explains how life originated on the Earth, how photosynthetic organisms made the Earth’s atmosphere rich in oxygen and how our planet differs from other planets in the solar system.

Photosynthetic organisms – the land plants and the plankton in the oceans – are the lungs of the world.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 32)

No matter what humans do to the earth, and probably no matter what happens to it from other causes, except for the final explosion of the Sun several billion years from now, the earth will recover.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 38)

The author also explains how atmospheric oxygen and ozone layer protects us from UV radiation. He talks about this in detail. So, there are many things that you can learn from this book. If you are an undergraduate student in science or biology, this book is a must for you. This book will give you a detailed idea of everything related to plants and environment in totality.

How Plants Remove the Greenhouse gases and Prevent the Earth from Overheating?

The second thing after photosynthesis that the author talks about in detail is the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases. The author gives an overall idea about the greenhouse gases and relates them to the increase in the rising temperature of the Earth. The rise in temperature is leading to global warming. He also gives a detailed explanation of how global warming leads to rise in the water level in the sea and how the glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are responsible for this rise.

Picture Curtsey: Wikimedia Commons

The sea level appears to be rising at a faster rate than in the past, as a result of global warming.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 55)

He further explains the effect of global warming on plants and animals. He explains how global warming is affecting the growth in some plants. There are numerous examples listed in the book as to how plants and animals are responding to global warming. I am including few examples from the book here.

Global warming is already having measurable effects on plants. Plant species are growing closer to the poles and further up to the mountains as a result of global warming.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 57)

Animals are also responding to climate changes. Armadillos have been expanding from their native habitats in the South, as far north as Illinois. Several bird species have moved their breeding ranges northward.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 58)

Which gas is responsible for global warming? None other than atmospheric carbon dioxide. The author explains the importance of greenhouse gases as to why these gases are important for the existence of life on the earth and how these gases maintain the temperature of the earth.

The greenhouse effect is, to certain extent, a good thing. Without it, the earth would be about as cold as Mars now is.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 66)

Too much carbon dioxide can cause earth to become too warm for the life forms that are now living on it.

Stanley A. Rice (Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, Pg: 66)

The author goes on further to explain global warming and its effect on the ecosystem and about ecological footprints. Its beyond the scope of this blog-post to review what the author explained in his book. It would be wise to read the book itself. I think his way of explaining the topics are un-matchable.

For a new science ventures this book is an awesome read. Students who want to understand the concepts of plant physiology and its relationship with environment in detail, this book is a must. I connected to this book very easily as my PhD was on plants and air pollution. My connection is genuine and relatable due to liking of the subject.    

This was my review for the first three chapters of the book “Green Planet How Plants Keep the Earth Alive”. I hope you will like the review. May be its too much of science but we are already familiar with most of the terms mentioned in the post. Stay connected for the second part of this book review.

Please comment what do you think about the plants and environments? How can we protect our Green Planet? Thank you for stopping by and reading.