First Advisor

Dr. John Sakulich

Reader

Dr. Amy Schreier

College

Regis College

Degree Name

BAS

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Abstract

Plants have a profound influence on global processes, namely through the proliferation of oxygen and fixation of organic carbon through photosynthesis. Terrestrial plants account for 80% of the Earth’s biomass, making them the most dominant form of life. Photosynthetic organisms provide the primary production for almost all ecosystems. Notably, plants support human life by forming the basis of the agricultural system through their capacity to turn sunlight into energy. Additionally, plants remove toxins from the environment and have been shown to improve human mental health. I argue that through researching plant physiology, humans can gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable power of plants to influence human life and in doing so, strip away the anthropocentric mindset that contributes to the denigration of natural systems. I first walk through the evolutionary history of photosynthesis noting its likely anoxic origins around hydrothermal vents and the advent of photosystem II which is able to split apart water producing O2 as a biproduct and oxygenating the atmosphere. I then examine the mechanisms of the three plant photosynthetic pathways. Finally, I analyze the ways in which humans can utilize plants to optimize efficiency in agriculture, improve human habitats and connect humans to the natural world.

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colorado

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