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What exactly does a tree do and how does the water get from the ground to the tips?

Exciting questions, the answers are fascinating. One or the other knows the answer, but for all those who have forgotten or were not interested in school, the answer is clear photosynthesis and is one of the most important parts of a tree's life.

Photosynthesis is pure magic.

If someone tells you that oxygen is just a waste product, you're probably shaking your head, right? But it's true. Although we cannot exist without oxygen, plants do not need oxygen to live. It is just a waste product of their metabolism. But before we go into that, let's travel back to the beginnings of our earth and now embark on an exciting journey back in time.

How many zeros is there in a billion and what does that have to do with trees?

We are now going back 4,5 billion years. To better imagine this time span, it is best to keep in mind that 1 billion written out looks like this: 1.000.000.000 - that's 9 zeros.

We consciously refer to photosynthesis as pure magic, the greatest miracle on earth, because this process that we are about to explain to you is one of the most important processes on earth. Only then is life on earth possible at all.

Why is photosynthesis so important?

4,5 billion years ago the world looked completely different than it does today. Life was not possible because the earth's atmosphere consisted of hydrogen, helium, ammonia, methane and other gases. It was only with the development of cyanobacteria and algae that oxygen was added as a gas. Cyanobacteria are among the oldest forms of life and the oxygen at that time was a pure waste product from the metabolic process, but this oxygen enriched our atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years. Just imagine, without this development we wouldn't be here today.

This oxygen that was added forms the basis for all the life that has been created piece by piece. Today the oxygen content in the air is around 21% and 100% of the oxygen we breathe today is due to an important process, namely the process of photosynthesis.

What is this photosynthesis?

If you are Greek, it is now easier, because the word comes from the Greek language and if you translate this word, you immediately understand the meaning behind it. Phos namely stands for Light and sýnthesis for Composition . The word initially only describes the chemical process within the plants. Because if plants don't need oxygen to live, what do trees and plants need?

The answer to this was also given at school, but we are now refreshing your knowledge and showing you the 3 points and thus the reasons why plants and trees can exist at all.

  1. water
  2. carbon dioxide
  3. Light


What do the plants do with it?

Plants are super smart because they first convert the water, carbon dioxide and oxygen. They transform the 3 elements into something that we also know and many of us also taste it very tasty, namely glucose. Yes, you read that right, grape sugar, also called glucose. This is the most important thing for the plants.

You have worked for one thing all your life, namely the all-important glucose. Do you need the glucose and why? Right, because they grow thanks to the glucose. They are all about growth. Since they cannot do anything with the oxygen that is created during this process, they simply release the oxygen into the environment. This is good for us and is actually the greatest happiness on earth, because we and the animals in the environment need this oxygen to live. This is why it is so important to understand that each of us should become a tree saver, because if we don't save trees ... a life is no longer possible for us humans. And to be honest: who wants that?

And how exactly does it work, this photosynthesis?

For those of us who sat up front in school, there is a more detailed version. The formula for photosynthesis is: 6 H2O + 6 CO2 + light = 6 O2 + C6 H12 O6.

In words:

Six carbon dioxide molecules plus twelve water molecules result in one molecule of glucose (grape sugar) plus six molecules of oxygen and six molecules of water.

This reaction requires a lot of energy from sunlight. The amount of energy required to build up one mole of glucose from CO2 and H2O is

ΔG ° ´ = +2872 kJ / mol

For a long time, science did not even know where the oxygen that the plants release came from. First experiments with 18O marked water or CO2 could show that the oxygen comes from the water. The water molecule, actually an extremely stable molecule, is split. An extremely large amount of energy is required for this process. And where does this energy come from? Right, from sunlight - one of the most powerful sources of energy.

That means in numbers: Every hour hit 430 trillion joules of energy from the sun to earth - that's a 430 with 18 zeros. In comparison: all of humanity consumes 410 trillion joules of energy in a whole year.

The development of oxygen in plants is the source of almost all oxygen on earth - the source of our life! All other organic substances are produced in the metabolism from the carbohydrates that are formed in photosynthesis.

So we remember: The most important thing about photosynthesis for us humans is the absorption of carbon dioxide and the release of the oxygen that is so vital for us.

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Michael K.
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