SAN ANTONIO – Planet Earth is our home and has been around for 4.5 billion years. And it does pretty amazing things.
First, it sustains us by delivering oxygen and food through photosynthesis, the process in which plants use sunlight to make their own food and compensate for releasing oxygen into the air.
“So ultimately, without photosynthesis, every living thing that would need oxygen would cease to exist,” said Dr. Karen Engates, a visiting environmental science professor at the University of Incarnate Word.
Engates explained the power of just one tree.
“One big tree can basically provide around oxygen for up to four people who normally breathe,” Engates said.
She said houseplants are also excellent sources of oxygen that can produce oxygen for our homes at night and detoxify the air.
Engates said leaf size is important the larger the leaf, the more oxygen the tree will release. For example, pines have smaller needles and emit less oxygen than a maple that has larger leaves. But surprisingly, no trees or land plants provide most of the oxygen for us.
“The best estimates indicate that about half to almost 80% of oxygen production doesn’t really come from trees, it actually comes from the oceans, with the majority of phytoplankton being few drifting plants, and few algae and some bacteria in the ocean, ”said Engates.
That’s why she says our oceans are also quite important, as our oceans make up about 97% of the water on Earth. But how much water is on our planet?
“Some NASA scientists put together the idea that if we could take all the water we know and put it in one volume, we would have about 332 quintillion gallons,” Engates said. “Which is 18 zeros beyond 332. That’s a lot of water on the planet that we have to worry about.”
The water, the trees, the plants, our snowy mountains, beaches and forests, are crucial to our survival. That’s why Engates said that we should not celebrate and raise awareness to protect our planet only on Earth Day, but every day.
“It is our responsibility to be stewards of the Earth. To protect the place we find at home, not only for our means of survival, but also for the enjoyment and the possibility for future generations to enjoy it, ”Engates said.
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