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Chap 1 Eco 7 - 8 CHAPTER 1 Animals and plants differ in...

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8 CHAPTER 1 ~--, FIGURE 1.5 Epiphytic air plants grow high above the ground on the limbs of trees in tropical rain forests. Photo by R. E. Ricklefs. Plants use the energy ofsunlight to produce organic matter All ecological systems depend on transformations of energy. For most systems, the ultimate source of that energy is sunlight. Plants and other photosynthetic organ- isms use the energy of sunlight to synthesize organic mol- ecules from carbon dioxide and water. On land, most plants have structures with large exposed surfaces-their leaves-to capture the energy of sunlight. Their leaves are thin because surface area for light capture is more important than bulk. Rigid stems support their aboveg- round parts. To obtain carbon, terrestrial plants take up gaseous carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the same time, they lose prodigious amounts of water by evapora- tion from their leaf tissues to the atmosphere. Thus, plants need a steady supply-to replace water lost during photo- synthesis. Not surprisingly, most plants are firmly rooted
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