Vegetation in Ecology: Definition, Types and Importance/ Uses of Vegetation To Man

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Photo of Vegetation: Definition,Types and Importance/ Uses of Vegetation To Man

Vegetation in ecology plays a vital role in our natural ecosystem and also supports the biosphere in various ways. Vegetation helps to regulate the flow of numerous biogeochemical cycles, most importantly those of water, carbon, and nitrogen; it also contributes in the local and global energy balances.

The term vegetation refers to plant cover, plant community or ground full of different plants and it may include both man-made vegetation and natural vegetation. However, vegetation is a broader term than flora which refers to species composition hence, vegetation cuts across diversity of plants in an area ranging from redwood forests, sphagnum bogs, coastal mangrove stands, desert soil crusts, roadside weed patches, wheatfields, cultivated gardens to lawns.

What does vegetation mean?

Generally, vegetation is a term used to describe the total plant cover in an area or on the surface of the earth as a whole. Vegetation is a term used for describing plant environment; it is defined as a region on the earth surface covered with plants. However, there two major types of vegetation which include-

  1. Natural vegetation– these are plants which are found naturally in a location rather than being regenerated through the activities of man. This type of vegetation is formed naturally without human intervention or without agricultural practices; it thus includes virgin vegetation and those regenerated by natural means and is controlled by the climatic conditions of the region in which it is found.
  2. Man-made vegetation– this man-made vegetations sometimes referred to as cultural vegetation or that which is planted by man. Man is the pioneer of this type of vegetation or it is created or seeded by human intervention and it is seen where the main land use is for production (wood and fibre), protection (soil, water and other environmental values), conservation of biological diversity. However, the two types of vegetation are further divided into for four groups which are listed below.

Types of vegetation (examples of vegetation)

  1. Forests vegetation
  2. Grasslands vegetation
  3. Deserts vegetation
  4. Tundra vegetation

The type of vegetation formed within an area is influenced by the soil formation, topography, climate and human impact.

  1. Forestvegetation: forestvegetation is refers to a large area of plant community covered with tall trees, these trees form a layer of foliage that largely covers the ground and shows stratification with more than one layer. Example of trees found in the forest vegetation include mahogany, ashes, willows, maple, birches, mosses, lichens, rosewoods, mangroves and oaks. These trees are further characterised into evergreen, broadleaf and coniferous deciduous. Forest vegetation is divided into 3 types namely Tropical rainforests, temperate deciduous forests and coniferous forests. Read more here on forest vegetation.
  2. Grassland vegetation: grasslandvegetation is a natural plant coverthat isdominated by grass or grass-like vegetation; thisgrass-like vegetation hasbeen formed by nature. The grasslands are called by different name in different parts of the world- they are called\Steppes in Russia, Downs in Australia, Veld in South Africa, Savannahs in Central Africa, Prairies in North America, Pampas in South America. Most of the grasslands are located in the temperate zone ( between latitude 230N and 66 0N in the Northern hemisphere and between latitude 23 0S and 660S in the southern hemisphere. See more on grassland vegetation.
  3. Desertvegetation: the desertvegetation is a large dry region covered with sandy soil and rocky soil, the trees in this vegetation include short shrubs which occur in patches and are characterized with thorns, thick stems, long roots and wax coated leaves and stems. Examples of plants in the desert vegetation are cactus, date palms, acacia, horny bushes and coarse grasses. The deserts vegetation are sometime made up of little or no plants and animals, it has high temperature and receives little amount of rainfall. Example of desert vegetation include south West Australia desert, Arabia, Indian desert, Sahara desert, Atacama Desert, Kalahari Desert. Also, read more on desert biomes.
  4. Tundra vegetation: the tundra vegetation is a large flat region of North America, Europe and Asia, which the subsoil is covered with permafrost and it is about 1500 ft deep. The tundra has fewer trees with stunted shrubs, which include lichens, mosses and sedges. The soil is covered with permafrost, winters are dry and very long, and the growth of plants is restricted. Examples of plants in the tundra vegetation include birches, willow trees, junipers, mosses, lichens and arctic bluegrasses, poppy, and catchfly. Seemore explanation on tundra.

Importance of vegetation to man

  1. Vegetation is an assemblage of plant species, these plants are the main source of food for humans and these foods are in form of vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, leaves , seeds and they comprises of carbohydrates, oils, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
  2. Vegetation is very important to both man and other living things, the trees are constantly used for the construction of houses, bridge and poles.
  3. Vegetation helps to regulate the flow of numerous biogeochemical cycles in the atmosphere, most critically those of water, carbon, and nitrogen; it is also contribute in the local and global energy balances.
  4. Vegetation plays an important role in our ecosystem; plants are known as the primary producers, they can manufacture their own food by themselves through the process ofphotosynthesis usingsunlight and they also forms the starting point of the food chain and then provide food for other animals that directly depend on them.
  5. The natural vegetation is very useful to humans who have a direct contact with some its uses and such uses are numerous if listed; all parts of plant are very beneficial to man: the flowers, saps, stems and the roots of plants are used for different purposes. Oils and fragrances are extracted from plant roots, flowers and leaves are used for different aesthetic purposes hence they are used for other things like perfume, essential oil and for various cosmetic purposes,
  6. Vegetation plays an important role among animals like herbivores and carnivores, herbivores use plants for food while some carnivores use plants their camouflage.
  7. Vegetation has contributed immensely to the world economy, particularly in the use of fossil fuels as an energy source, but also in the global production of food, wood, fuel and other materials.
  8. Vegetation also affects soil formation, including soil volume, chemistry, texture and structure, which in turn affect various vegetation characteristics, including productivity and structure.
  9. Vegetation is also a natural resource, which through various means and through some specific trees has provided man with useful materials like robes, rubber, gum, papers, and wood, plastic which are useful for making for books, rope, tire, wiring and seats.
  10. Some plants have medicinal uses; they are often use for different herbal treatment and for making medicine for life-threatening situations.
  11. Apart from leather which is gotten from animal hide, plants like cotton and juteare the largest providers of textile and fabric material which are used for making of clothing for human use.
Picture showing an example of natural vegetation
Picture showing an example of natural vegetation

There are many uses of plants or vegetation to man and such uses are grouped into herbal uses, ecological uses, medicinal uses and economic importance. However, these are just few among the many list of things we get from plants, you can search the internet for more uses of plants or vegetation.