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How Earth Materials Sustain Animal and Plant Life

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  • 0:01 Earth Materials
  • 1:17 Sustaining Plant Life
  • 2:10 Sustaining Animal Life
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

The earth can be a very complex system with many different interacting parts. But, at its base, it is made up of four main materials that make life on Earth possible for both plants and animals.

Earth Materials

Take a minute and think about how animals and plants grow. What do they need to survive? Animals and plants cover the earth's surface, and in order to survive, they rely on Earth materials, which are the main components that make up the outer crust of the earth. These four materials include minerals, rocks, soil, and water.

Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic solids that have a crystalline structure and definite chemical composition. Rocks are naturally formed aggregates of minerals or mineral-like substances. Rocks can be made up of one type of mineral, several minerals, or no minerals at all.

Soil is a mixture of decomposed organic matter and broken-down rocks and minerals. Soil also contains important pore spaces that allow water and air to circulate.

The final material is water, which is a clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid comprised of hydrogen and oxygen. The majority of water on Earth is in the form of saltwater and a small amount is freshwater.

All four materials are very important alone, but together they are even more impressive. They interact with each other, and the combinations of these materials are what make life on Earth possible.

Sustaining Plant Life

Now that we know what Earth materials are, let's look at how they help to sustain plant life. If I wanted to grow a plant, I would first dig a hole in the ground, then plant some seeds, and water the seeds so they grow. During this process, I would be digging in soil. The soil is where the seeds are planted and what plants grow out of.

Most types of plants cannot survive without soil to grow in. Soil not only provides a material to grow in but also transports nutrients and water to the roots of the plant. Plants need to absorb these nutrients and water in order to grow.

Minerals found in the soil, such as calcium, copper, and iron, are also absorbed by the plant and are important for plant growth and structure. The rocks within soil are also very important to plants. Many plants wrap their roots around rocks in the soil, which helps anchor them in place. The rocks keep plants secure and stable.

Sustaining Animal Life

Earth materials also help sustain animal life on the planet. All animals rely on water for survival. Water is essential because it helps bodies function properly. It helps regulate body temperature, keep organs hydrated, and transports oxygen, nutrients, and waste.

Water is even more important to some animals that rely on it for habitat. Animals that live in lakes, streams, and oceans need water inside their body and outside to survive. Small amounts of certain minerals are also essential to the proper functioning of animal bodies. Minerals such as zinc and copper are involved in reproduction and the immune system.

While water and minerals help sustain the physical body of animals, rocks and soil are more important in terms of their environment. Rocks and soil make up the majority of land that animals live on and are the base components of any habitat.

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