The planet Earth is a beautiful place to live in. Life has flourished on the planet, thanks to the bountiful sun and vast oceans of water. No matter where we go on the planet, there are stunning plants, flowers, and animals that catch our attention. They are two very important aspects of any ecosystem.
Of all the living organisms on the planet, the two most commonly seen by us are plant life and animal life. Apart from these two, more forms of life abound on the earth but are harder to see with the naked eye. This is why the flora and fauna, i.e., plant and wildlife of the earth, are fascinating to observe and study.
In this technological era, humans interact more with gadgets than ever, and it’s almost impossible to find time to interact with nature. When the vacation period knocks, they make up for that by traveling to exotic locations to trek through untamed trails or just driving to see an army of fearless animals. This is enabled by flora and fauna spread across different parts of the world.
Flora and fauna are words originating from Latin. Flora in Latin means the goddess of the flower. Flora is also derived from the word floral, which means “relating to flowers”. Therefore, the flora is a group of indigenous plants in an ecosystem of a geographical region.
The origin of the word “fauna” is a bit shrouded in mystery. According to Roman mythology, Fauna refers to the goddess of fertility. Fauna is sometimes referred to as fauns, meaning forest spirits. By definition, fauna is a group of indigenous animals of any geographical region.
So, the term flora and fauna were coined by biologists to refer to a collection of plants and animals specific to a given geographic location. This is why you hear phrases like flora and fauna of India, flora and fauna of Indonesia and so on.
What is Flora?
Flora is the name given to the collective plant life that grows or once grew in a certain area or during a given time period. It usually refers to the native plant life present but does include new species that have been introduced as well. Flora and fauna of the earth have names derived from Latin.
In the language, “Flora” was a goddess of flowers and plants. In Roman mythology, she was the goddess of fertility. And so, the plant kingdom came to be known as Flora. The study of plant life around the world is very interesting since it leads to different classifications of flora.
Plant life on the earth can be distinguished from each other in a number of ways. The simplest is to divide on the basis of region. Plants that grow specifically in the mountains will be very different from those that grow in the desert.
Similarly, the plants that have adapted to living underwater are treated as a unique form of flora. Scientists can also study ‘Fossil Flora’, which comprises of plant life discovered in prehistoric times. The current flora and fauna of the earth are also divided on the basis of the environment in which they are grown or seen naturally.
When we talk about ‘Native Flora’, we are referring to the plant life that is indigenous to a particular region. Cacti are the native flora of deserts all over the world. They can grow in most weather conditions but are native to the sandy dunes of the desert. When we refer to ‘Agricultural Flora’, we are talking about plant life that has been grown by humans for a certain purpose.
They may or may not be native, but they are used by humans for their own needs. Similarly, there is ‘Garden Flora’ or ‘Horticultural Flora’, which are plants grown for decorative purposes. And then we have the ‘Weed Flora’, which are plants that are either undesirable in certain areas or invasive within the native plant life.
What is Fauna?
Fauna, on the other hand, is the name given to collective animal life that lives or was once found in a certain area or time period. In Latin, Fauna is derived from three different sources. Fauna by itself was the name of a Roman goddess representing fertility and the earth, and Faunus was another Roman god. And then there were fauns, which were known to be forest spirits.
Both flora and fauna of the earth have been given sub-divisions. Fauna is also distinguished in many different ways. However, these ways are much more complex than floral divisions because animal life has evolved into many different forms.
To begin with, the animal kingdom by itself is Fauna. However, within it we have the ‘Avifauna‘ that refers to the birds and the ‘Piscifauna‘ that refers to the fish. These are simpler classifications since they do not cover small single-celled organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
They also do not account for the microscopic organisms that abound in nature but cannot be seen by the human eye. Such animal life is known as ‘Microfauna’. Much of flora and fauna of the earth can be seen, but there is a very large percentage that has yet to be named or even discovered.
This is why classifications such as ‘Cryptofauna’ arise, which refers to animals that are extremely rare and may even be mythological. There are also ‘Microfauna’, which refers to extremely small animals, and ‘Megafauna’, which talks about the large animals we usually see.
Planet Earth has been blessed in more ways than one. We have complex ecological systems that not only provide us with resources but also make the world a more beautiful place to live in. Little of this would be possible without the earth’s diverse flora and fauna.
Importance of Flora and Fauna
1. Maintains ecological balance
Without flora and fauna, humans could not exist. The flora generates and releases oxygen, which is needed by the fauna for respiratory purposes. In return, the fauna produces and releases carbon dioxide, which is needed by the flora for photosynthesis. It’s a symbiotic kind of relationship.
In the same line, humans cannot get by without both flora and fauna. The oxygen that we breathe in comes from the flora, and the carbon dioxide we exhale is vital for the flora.
Even in very small ways, each plant and animal brings something to the environment that another plant or animal, including humans, will rely on. The relationship among every organism creates a balance of life that allows the life cycle to survive.
Also, humans benefit a lot from flora and fauna in terms of sources of food, medicine, and water. Our main source of food emanates from plant and animal species. Over 90% of the medicine we use to cure diseases comes from flora. If it were not for the flora, there would be no water, which means we would not exist right now.
We are all connected through a food chain in which fauna occupies a significant part. Animals maintain equilibrium across the board by predating on plants and other animals that could have otherwise exploded in population. They also enable other rare species of plants and mushrooms to grow by pollinating other plants.
Animal droppings are a source of fertilizer for plants. When animals die, they act as a supplemental mineral for plants. Also, microorganisms on the Earth’s surface benefit from an abundance of food as a result of animal droppings.
2. Aesthetic value
It’s a no-brainer that humans love and appreciate nature. Many like to spend time in outdoor settings such as forests, natural areas, parks, and other green spaces because of their aesthetic value.
Furthermore, humans also love going to areas with water like beaches, lakes, rivers, oceans, and many more, as they give off a very pleasing aesthetic value, and this aesthetic value is mainly contributed by the spread of flora and fauna.
Statistics tell the story: each year, up to half a billion people visit beautiful protected sceneries like national parks, recreation areas, indigenous forests, historic sites, wildlife refuges, and wild and scenic rivers to experience the beauty of the landmarks. This further underlines the significance of flora and fauna to our day-to-day lives.
3. Expands local economies
Flora and fauna contribute mightily to most world economies regarding tourism. For example, flora and fauna of the Amazon attract numerous scientists and explorers. It’s estimated that the Amazon rainforest contributes about $50 million dollars to the Brazilian economy.
Exotic vacation locations like the Caribbean, Bahamas, Panama, Indonesia, and so on attract more tourists than any country due to the widespread flora and fauna.
More than an attraction for tourism, flora and fauna also expand the local economy by providing tons of possible sources of income. Many flora and fauna species are being sold for food, decorations, pets, and many more consumer products.
Examples of Flora
It’s a flora that falls under the species of flowering plants in the spurge family. It originates in northern South America and southern North America. It bears grapes that can result in rashes if you’re wet.
It’s not advisable to shelter under it when it rains since it produces milk that causes burns and blisters. Also, abstain from eating its fruits as they cause the same effects on your mouth and throat.
Giant redwood trees
We are used to the typical trees growing in our city parks or neighborhoods. Some species of fauna exist that grow to astronomical heights. The Giant Redwood tree is a classic example. This kind of tree is considered the largest and tallest on earth. In fact, one specimen registered well over 350 feet tall. They are listed endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Giant redwood trees are native to the north coast of California, mostly around the Sierra National Forest. The conditions here, which include humid and rainy weather encourage such astronomical growth.
The nature of these tree species’ growth allows roads near the Sequoia National Park to snake through them. The canopy of these trees provides a home for a wide variety of bird species. The forest below harbors most animal species.
Giant redwood trees and Manchineel trees are photosynthetic; which means they create their own food from the sun’s rays. However, other kinds of flora take a lot more proactive approach to develop their own food.
Nepenthe is a typical example. It’s classified under the family of pitcher plants and originates from the jungles of Borneo. These florae have adapted leaves that form a huge pitcher structure. The pitcher contains a sweet-smelling liquid meant to attract insects and even some minute frog species. The insects and frogs drop inside the pitcher, but coming out becomes impossible due to the smooth, slippery sides of the pitcher.
The pitcher also contains digestive juices that immediately begin to act and digest the insects and frogs, enabling the plant to benefit from nutrients not present in the soil.
Welwitschia Mirabilis is one plant species that don’t like rain. It’s native to the Namib Desert within Angola and Namibia on the Southwestern coast of Africa and thrives in the driest conditions on the planet.
Oddly enough, it only features 2 large leaves that wrap around it, depicting a wilted or dry plant. The only other parts it has besides the two leaves are its taproot and basal stem.
When uncurled, its leaves can reach up to 13 feet in length, and its height may reach four to five feet. Despite its less attractive nature, this plant species is capable of living for more than 1500 years. This is possible due to its characteristic deep root system that can tap underground water even in the driest conditions.
Examples of Fauna
You might be surprised to see coral in this list. Apart from typical furry mammals such as bears and wolves, aquatic animals like corals, most insects on land and jellyfish make up the fauna. Coral reefs are the eye-catching, colorful landscapes beneath the ocean surface. Onsight, you might think they are plants, but they are animal species, constituting the fauna of the ocean.
Corals are immobile animals, and so they feed by picking out prey that swims by, for example, zooplankton. Corals are made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps.
An example of coral is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which is the largest natural coral on the globe. It harbors thousands of flora and fauna in warm shallow water in proximity to the equator.
This animal species features an olive to the dark brown body and is wrapped with many small warts over its body. It also has a black and white marbled look around its belly.
The Southern toadlet thrives in damp habitats such as drainage lines, woodlands, scrubland, dry forests, and grassland. This animal species is native to the south-east of South Australia, south Victoria, and eastern Tasmania.
Southern Toadlets are ground dwellers, and they usually walk rather than hop. They can grow up to 35mm in size, and their skin has a warty surface.
Moreover, southern toadlets do not have webbed toes, and male toadlets have granular bellies while female toadlets have smooth bellies. They feed through small invertebrates like moths, flies, and mosquitos, and they are usually found in dry sclerophyll forests under bark, logs and leaf litter.
Eltham copper butterfly
It is an endangered species of butterfly. The Eltham area in Victoria supports a greater population of this kind of butterfly. This butterfly species was initially discovered near Eltham in 1938. It was later thought to be extinct in the 1950s.
The Eltham Copper butterfly is a small yet glittering species of butterfly, coupled with bright copper coloring above its wings. The copper coloring makes it clearly visible in the course of the summer flight season.
Scops Owl and Blue Pigeon
Both birds are native to the series of islands found northeast of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, Seychelles. The Madagascar scops owl roost on a branch that has dense foliage, which helps them to rest without any worries about predators during the day, and during the night they hunt, fly, call, and go about their daily activities.
They occur in three different color morphs, including gray, brown, and rufous. Scops owls feed mainly on moths and beetles, as well as small vertebrates.
Madagascar blue pigeons are usually found perched on tree tops or flying above canopies. They feed primarily on fruits taken from shrubs and trees, as well as bugs and seeds. The Madagascar blue pigeon grows up to 28 centimeters long, and they have dark blue upperparts with a silver gray upper mantle.
There are hundreds of thousands of flora and fauna species across the globe. Flora and fauna bring out the true beauty of planet Earth and enable humans to experience two separate worlds in one. The fact that flora and fauna contribute to a well-balanced ecosystem makes it only natural that we take steps to preserve them to enjoy their benefits to the end of time.