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Why do plants help relieve heat and make the environment cooler?

Why do plants help relieve heat and make the environment cooler?

Although many people think that plants are just decorations or that they take up a lot of space on sidewalks, vegetables have a series of functions. In addition to being food and shelter for hundreds of thousands of species, plants also have the ability to reduce heat in the environment in which they are found.

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The role of photosynthesis in controlling temperature

To understand how plants help cool their surroundings, it is necessary to understand a little about the biochemical processes that occur within these organisms. The first and most important is the process of photosynthesis. Responsible for converting sunlight into chemical energy for plants, and this process absorbs a large amount of solar radiation. During photosynthesis they use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

This transformation occurs in the chloroplast. Specialized structures found in leaf cells. Chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color, is necessary for absorbing sunlight. Upon reaching chlorophyll molecules, sunlight triggers a series of chemical reactions that split a water molecule into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen released into the atmosphere is released as a result of this process. Once hydrogen enters an organism, it combines with carbon dioxide, producing sugars that the plant uses to fuel itself.

Photo: Rafael Bigetti – Flickr

Plants play a crucial role in the thermoregulation of environments, and exert a significant influence on local temperatures. This phenomenon is the result of a series of complex biological and physical processes that occur in and around plants.

However, with heat, plants also need to regulate their body temperature. Ultimately, heat destroys the proteins and enzymes necessary for its survival. To do this, plants use a mechanism very similar to what we humans have. Plant transpiration not only helps with thermoregulation but also ensures a continuous flow of water from the roots to the leaves. Through small pores called stomata.

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During plant transpiration, guard cells, the structures responsible for coordinating the opening and closing of stomata, act according to the volume of water absorbed by the roots. Upon receiving information from the roots, the cells will control the amount of stomata to open, thus ensuring the plant that the volume of water on the surface of the leaf will not hinder the absorption of light by the chloroplasts. Thus ensuring that photosynthesis also occurs simultaneously.

When water is absorbed by the roots and transmitted to the leaves, it evaporates through the stomata, creating a cooling effect. Heat exchange between the environment and water leads to the generation of cooling, as water absorbs thermal energy while transforming into steam.

Microscopic visualization of chloroplasts and organelles found in plant cells and other photosynthetic organisms. Credit: Wikipedia

Another important aspect, and perhaps the most obvious by far, is the shade created by plants. Plants have evolved so that their leaves have as much surface area as possible, to ensure the absorption of sunlight. Therefore, by intercepting the sun’s energy on its journey to Earth, plants help reduce the temperature of the soil immediately surrounding them along with the shade they cast.

Plants are certainly wonderful living organisms and perform many functions other than just decorating the balcony or garden at home. So, in the midst of so many heat waves, how about we plant some trees?