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Plenary Symposium: Botany in the World's Service

Berry, Paul E. [1].

How is botany doing in the war of the phyla?

Plants don´t just support the world, they permeate every aspect of our lives. As energetic “autotrophs,” their net role is to fix carbon (the ultimate food source for us heterotrophs) and to supply the earth´s atmosphere with oxygen. Cut that oxygen, and we´re all dead in minutes. At industrial scales, we rely on just a small fraction of the world´s plants – corn, soy, rice, wheat, cassava, and potatoes – more than we really need, so companies are constantly inventing new uses for these workhorses. At an individual level, we can all appreciate nature´s botanical bounty more intimately – think of your favorite morning tea, coffee, or mate; choosing an organic mesclun salad mix; your favorite smoke; a cool beer or rejuvenating glass of wine; a bouquet of flowers, your favorite garden spot, or for some even a weed-free lawn. We argue about how much of the world´s vegetation should stay intact, if we can really stop the march towards urbanization and allowing croplands to take over forest and savannas in the tropics, and how much of the plant diversity is being lost as a result. Perhaps we are doing a great disservice to botany for all that plants have done for us, but if we can nurture the ethnobotanist in each of us that has been repressed by urban living, we might strike a better balance in the war of the phyla.

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1 - University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Botany, Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706-1381, USA


Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: 4-6
Location: Salon G - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2005
Time: 11:15 AM
Abstract ID:250

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