Without animals, can plants thrive and survive by themselves? In very simple words, YES!
Plants need animals for their survival and reproduction. Plants help animals survive and also provide protection for them but animals play an important role in the lives of plants, such as providing a platform for pollination, dispersing seeds from parent plants to other places, and providing nutrients.
In fact, small animals like insects have always been an important part of plants’ growth for several reasons. Read the article to know more about plant-animal interactions. Why do plants need animals to survive
Why Do Plants Need Animals to Survive?
There is always one thing required to keep the ball rolling: BALANCE. The survival of both plants and animals is linked with each other naturally. Plants and animals exchange carbon dioxide.
In plants carbon dioxide is used in their food production process, photosynthesis whereas in animals carbon dioxide is produced as a result of “burning food” or calories during respiration.
This forms a symbiotic relationship between both plants and animals and from a human standpoint, that makes sense. Right?
Plants are autotrophs, meaning that they can completely survive on their own.
So, why do plants need animals in the first place if they are autotrophs?
Plants need only the basics to survive and reproduce: sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water, none of these things are linked to animals in any way, and that is correct but not completely.
The plants can asexually reproduce and create their own food by photosynthesis, and they can do it for a long time.
But everything has its limits. How long do you think they can keep doing this? If the plants keep reproducing, they will run out of space and basic resources after some time.
Plants need animals for pollination and seed scattering.
We will be referring to all the birds and insects as animals in this article. So, animals like bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds, etc., pollinate the plants.
The Anther (male part of the flower) of plants gets attached to the bodies of the pollinating animals.
So when those animals fly to other plants, those anthers detach themselves to other plants’ Stigma(female part of the flower) and start the fertilization process.
That is one of the most important reasons plants need animals for survival. Although it is true that plants can self-pollinate to reproduce, it will have a drawback in the near future.
Due to plants’ anthers fertilizing the same plants’ stigmas will soon cause overpopulation in a very limited area. You can imagine what will happen next. Civil War for resources!
Spreading the Seeds:
The second reason why plants need animals is for sprinkling the seeds. Relatively large animals like Elephants, dogs, squirrels, sea turtles, etc. How do they do that? It is simple to understand.
These animals eat the seeds of the plants, and as those animals poop while traveling away from the plants, the seeds are naturally sowed in soil, which is how biodiversity is maintained.
You can say that plants have kept these animals as their delivery guys. Animals like elephants have larger hunger than others, so they have to travel miles to keep up with the energy.
Thus the plant seeds are scattered in miles because of that. This is why plants need animals for survival.
To Provide Fertilizer:
Animal manure is an organic fertilizer widely used as a crop fertilizer for centuries. Manure adds organic matter, nutrients, and microbes to the soil.
Fertilizers are chemicals added to the soil to make the nutrients available to the plants. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, boron, molybdate.
Plant use Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous in large quantities to grow and produce fruit. Soil microbes help release nutrients from manure, fight disease, and clean pollutants.
The Symbiotic Plant and Animal Relationships:
The symbiotic relationship between plants and animals is old and strong. Both the species depend on each other for their survival. First of all, what is symbiosis?
What is Symbiosis?
Symbiosis can be defined as a relationship or interaction between two different parties. That relation can be of any kind like commensalism, mutualistic, or any other.
Any type of interaction between two completely different species is known as symbiosis.
We are talking about the symbiosis between plants and animals. How do they interact? How many kinds of symbiosis do they have? How can those kids be defined?
The first and simplest is Predation. It is the kind of symbiosis when an organism, let’s say animals, eats or consumes other organisms (plants).
Like all the herbivore animals consume plants, and all the carnivore animals survive by consuming other animals.
Carnivore plants that eat small insects are also found in the plant kingdom; they do this to fulfill their nitrogen requirement due to the poor quality of their soil.
Second is Commensalism, it is the kind in which one party gets all the benefits of interactions, and the other party is not harmed or benefited in any way.
Just the Air plants, which grow on the tree and don’t affect the trees in any way, neither positive nor negative. But once they get too heavy, that part of the tree will likely fall as well.
The third one is Parasitism, the kind of symbiosis in which the parasite negatively affects the host. Meaning that the parasite enjoys all the benefits of the symbiotic relationship, and the host pays for it.
But unlike the predation, the host is not consumed completely, as the parasites are almost always smaller than the host.
Number fourth is Mutualism, the symbiosis in which both parties enjoy the benefits of their interaction. As you have read above, this is the best type of pollination. The plants benefit by reproducing, and the animals benefit from food consumption.
Parasitic Plant-Animal Relationship:
The parasitic relationship, also called Parasitism, is the interaction between host and parasite. The parasite has all the advantages in this relation, and the host pays for this unjust interaction. There are two types of parasitism: Internal and External.
Internal parasitism is when worms live inside the host and external parasitism is when leeches or other parasites attach themselves with the host from outside.
What do Plants Need from Animals?
Plants need animals. That is proven. But what exactly do the plants need from animals? You know the answer. They need pollination and seed scattering.
Plants need animals to help them reproduce. When animals sit on plant flowers, the pollen gets attached to their bodies which those animals then carry to other flowers for reproduction purposes.
Animals consume plant seeds and excrete them to naturally sow them in the soil, sometimes a mile away from the parent plants.
This allows the plant to ensure the survival of its species by getting the seeds as far and wide as possible.
There is also the possibility that the seeds may land in an environment that is even more adaptable than the parent plant hence causing the species to grow even larger and stronger.
What do Animals Need from Plants?
Basically, animals need everything from plants to survive. Herbivore animals eat plants, and carnivore animals eat the herbivores, so if we take plants out of the equation, then no more herbivores and no herbivores mean no carnivores, got it?
Apart from food, plants provide shelter and oxygen for animals and human beings to breathe. Plants need animals, and animals need plants.
Do Plants Need Humans To Survive?
Most plants don’t really need humans to survive. Some species of plants (e.g., cacti) will grow very well without any direct contact with people at all, but most plants need some sort of human intervention to thrive.
Humans can be considered as an invasive species because many plants were originally native to North America but now live in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, etc. This is because humans introduced new diseases to these areas that killed off the original inhabitants.
However, there are still plenty of plants that require humans to survive.
For example, corn needs to be planted every year to produce enough ears to feed a family. If the farmer doesn’t plant the corn, then the corn won’t grow. Also, some crops like wheat, barley, oats, rye, rice, etc. cannot grow unless they are harvested regularly.
So, yes, in some cases where we have modified or domesticated plants to suit our needs and these actually depend on humans to survive.
Concluding point of the article, every living being’s survival is connected with other living beings, one way or another. Plants are called the producers and all the other living beings are primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers.
The plants can NOT survive without animals. As you have read above, they need them for growth and reproduction. That is why saying that plants can go off on their own would be wrong.
Apart from all this, plants require a sufficient amount of nitrogen, rich soil nutrients, water, and of course, sunlight for photosynthesis. Thanks.