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The Effects of Seed Plants on Human Welfare

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  • 00:00 Svalbard Global Seed Vault
  • 00:59 Seeds & Food
  • 2:28 Seeds & Products
  • 3:05 Threats to Seed Plants
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Have you ever stopped to think how important the plants growing outside your home actually are? What do they provide you with? Why is their biodiversity important? This lesson explains.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

In the cold, far-northern reaches of Norway lies the most important vault in the world. It has no dollars, it keeps no gold, it houses no diamonds. It's called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Its purpose is to house the seeds of over 4,000 plant species with a maximum capacity of 2.25 billion seeds.

Why? Well, while governments do stockpile seeds of important food crops on their own, things like war and financial troubles can cause their loss. In the event of a global catastrophe, this vault may be humanity's last chance to re-populate the world with the seeds important for food and other products necessary for our survival. In such a catastrophe, seeds and water - not gold and diamonds - may be the world's most important currency.

Let's learn even more about how seed plants are important to human welfare.

Seeds & Food

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located far beyond the Arctic Circle, houses many seeds important for food. Everything from wheat to beans to rice. Governments all over the world also house their own unique genetic varieties of crops of importance in local and national repositories. So, why bother stockpiling these precious seeds? The simple answer is that they provide us with food. But the real answer is far richer.

Wheat and other cereals provide us with carbohydrates, nutrients utilized as sugar by your body for energetic processes. Beans and nuts give us proteins, nutrients important for muscle health and function as well as biochemical reactions. Olives give us all sorts of healthy fats. And many seed plants, like fruits and vegetables, nurture us with vitamins and minerals of all sorts that we need to sustain a healthy and happy life. That happiness may also come from simple pleasures like tea, coffee, and sugar, all of which come from seed plants.

We can live fully on a plant-based diet, but if we choose to raise animals for food, we'll need to feed them, too. And what do many of the plants these animals eat rely on? Seeds. These plants will need seeds to reproduce and grow in order to feed the animal and then, in turn, feed us.

Seeds & Products

But our welfare lies beyond just food. We also rely on seeds for many products! For instance, we use rice for more than just food! We can use rice straw to thatch roofs. We can use timber to build homes and furniture. We can use seed hulls for fertilizer. We can use plant straw as bedding for animals. Fibers from cotton and hemp can make clothing.

Many seed plants have given rise to important drugs that have been used to successfully treat a wide variety of diseases, and seed plants also enrich our lives with beautiful smells and colors in the form of flowers.

Threats to Seed Plants

As you can tell, everything from food to housing to medicine to simple life pleasures all depend on seed plants! Now you know why we have a very secure and specialized seed vault built just for them! The end point is that humanity cannot exist without seed plants. We rely on these plants for just about everything in one way or another. This is precisely why we must do everything to preserve not only the plants themselves but their diversity.

Herein lies the other important point of this lesson: the practical benefits of genetic diversity of seed plants. Biodiversity is a key factor in allowing at least a single species of plant to survive a devastating scenario, like a disease. If every population of the crop was exactly the same, then if something (like a virus) were to target this plant, everything would be wiped out.

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