Goodbye for now…

Hey everyone!

This will be my last post for a while as I break to prepare for my final exam in University. Writing these posts have made me learned tremendously and I could not be more grateful to be able to have them viewed by you guys!
Through my blog I hope you understand more about Plant Blindness: it’s meaning, causes and implications. I touched on issues such as plant conservation and its gaps, the lapse in illegal wildlife trading, and viewing plants as a potential source of solution for the world’s environmental problems.

Indeed, despite plants holding so much wonder and functionalities comparable to that of animals it has been overlooked by most including policymakers. I hope my post could instil upon you the appreciation for plants and motivate you to become a voice for them (“:

Thank you for all that have dropped by. I have received many valuable comments and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations we had in the comments section below. I would also like to thank my professor, Dr Coleman, for inspiring my blogs in many ways and motivating us to be critical thinkers.

Wishing all of you the best!

Cheers,
Chloe

What now?

Hey there! How have you been?

Sorry for the late post this week; Things have been so hectic with a research paper due, ah! To all my frequent readers, I hope that reading my past posts allowed you to glean insights to Plant Blindness and its related issues! Most importantly, I hope I was able to inspire some of you into caring and appreciating plants more! If you’re fired up and ready to make a change, you must be wondering: what now?

To those that are new to my blog, hello there! Feel free to explore my past posts. Welcome to the community!

In today’s post, I intend to suggest some concrete and simple actions that you can take to becoming a listener and speaker for the world of plants. (“:

One thing I learned from researching about Plant Blindness was how people tend to overlook the amazing functions of plants. What really sparked my journey to pay more attention to them was exposing myself to literature and media content that shed insight on the workings of plants, its varied functions, and applicability. I listed a few of my favourites down below and I encourage you to take a look! I confidently say it is worth your time!

(I listed it as follows as I felt watching the videos sequentially down the list would have a logical progression! The videos build upon the knowledge shared by the other.)

1.Electrical experiments with plants that count and communicate

Neuroscientists Greg Gage shows in a live demonstration how plants can convey information, move and even count using electrical signals that are the exact same processes happening in humans and animals.

2. The amazing ways plants defend themselves | Valentin Hammoudi

This video is a very accessible one! Not only is it animated, it also extends beyond the common knowledge learned about plants in primary and secondary school. It builds on this knowledge to further showcase its applicability in the context of plants’ defence mechanisms.

3. Tomatoes talk, birch trees learn – do plants have dignity? | Florianne Koechlin | TEDxZurich

This video gives a great overview of the dynamic processes that are happening to the seemingly static plants, hence emphasing how they are not just passive ‘objects’. The speaker sheds insights on plants’ varied communication skills, how it can respond to the commonly known five senses and electromagnetic waves, and even the network of nutrient and information exchange happening beneath the ground. After viewing this video, it added a completely new perspective to how I experience my time in nature. Each time I step foot into nature spaces, I feel invigorated to know that bustling lives filled with vigour are happening right beside and beneath me.

Moving on to real action! Participating in local habitat enhancement projects and community gardening/farming with friends and family is a great idea!

Habitat enhancement initiatives (in the context of Singapore) aim to improve degraded ecosystems by reforestation or managing invasive species. Most of the time it involves planting selective native trees, which requires the involvement of the local community to lend a helping hand! It was certainly a grand and rewarding sight to see many ordinary locals spread across a vast patch of land collaborating and bonding with one another through a type of plant conservation. I highly recommend this experience!

I also suggest participating in community gardening/farming as I was inspired by the P3 project that was developed to cure Plant Blindness. You can learn more about it in my response to Rachel’s comment in this post. Most accessible gardening and farming initiatives are Ground-Up Initiative, Community in Bloom, or even starting a mini garden of your own!

More than just sparking interest at an individual level, it is equally important that we become ambassadors for voiceless plants to enact beneficial changes for them at a national, even international level. In domestic and international biodiversity forums and symposiums that we might attend in the future, let us strive to bring about awareness to plants.

My blog would not have been complete without a call to action. I hope that these few suggestions are able to inspire you to embark on aplant discovery and protection journey of your own! Thank you and all the best (“:

Cheers,

Chloe

Nature meets waste

Hey everyone, welcome back!

Over the course of my posts, you will see that I have mentioned Philippines many times. My overseas service-learning trip to Philippines left a huge impression on me and today I will be delving deeper into the waste situation I witnessed in Payatas, Philippines.

Payatas landfill

Here I am on a nicely landscaped viewing platform watching over locals whose livelihood involves scaling the atrociously steep and dangerous pile of trash. Daily, they scavenge for trash that they can resale to sustain their living. Standing there, I could only imagine the sweltering heat beating down on them, the stench that permeates their nose and threatens to choke them, and the sheer number of flies that surround them…To say I felt uneasy was an understatement. I was reminded of my privilege, burdened by their hardship and nauseated by the reality of the waste generated by our consumerist culture.

It truly hit me that this was a waste town when it was not just piles of landfills I saw, but rows after rows of lined up trash that fills up the street.

Rows of trash that fills up the streets of Payatas

Recently I went on a field trip to Pulau Semakau and the difference in waste management is drastic! We could afford an offshore state-of-the-art waste management facility. Not only was there no physical trash to be seen, the place was also teeming with biodiversity. Waste is incinerated then dumped into sites lined with thick, impermeable geo-membrane. Topsoil is layered across and ecological succession allows the land field to transform into a very pleasing vegetated landscape.

Contrast this even to urban Manila, a city that largely reminded me of Singapore (or so I thought from my limited experience there) I was horrified to learn from my professor that waste management is equally terrible.

Following the theme of my blog, I often feel that we look upon technological solutions when solving environmental problems when in fact solutions can lie among nature itself. A solution that can tackle some aspects of waste management is phytoremediation.

Phytoremediation is the use of plants to degrade heavy toxic metals (eg. mercury, lead, manganese) and organic wastes (eg. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) through plants’ metabolisation (source).

Instinctively, it presents itself as a cost-effective management solution to toxic waste substances that pollute soil and water. To illustrate, sunflowers in a matter of a day could reduce Uranium concentration by 95% at a cost of $2–6$/1000 gallons of water compared to microfiltration which would cost $80/1000 gallons of water (source).

Phytoremediation in Manila

In an abandoned mine site in Mogpog, Philippines, the jatropha plant, a plant that can grow in terrible conditions, is used as a type of phytoremediation plant (source). Interestingly, this same plant can be found in Pulau Semakau as well!

Other than merely fulfilling the function of treating toxic wastes, there is an added opportunity for phytoremediation to be carried out by ornamental plants that can enhance the visual appeal of the environment and even create employment opportunities as workers are employed to harvest and sell these ornamental plants for income.

Nonetheless, phytoremediation has its rough edges. While plants do have innate ability to degrade these toxic contaminants, the rate of degradation is largely dependent on its growth rate and biomass productivity (source).

This, however, can be mitigated by the study of plant science and the consequent identification and change in the plants’ genotypic traits. Genes that control the metabolism of these hazardous contaminants can be overexpressed to improve the efficiency of phytoremediation. Therefore, the need for plant research and the potential to see plants as solutions are once again emphasised in this post.

Could you think of other environmental issues that can have a nature-centric solution? Fell free to share in the comments section below!

Cheers,

Chloe

The Flora Game

Hey everyone! Thanks for visiting my blog!

Did you know that three out of the top 5 most threatened species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List are plants? (source) Cycads are the most threatened taxonomic group today and cacti ranks closely as the fifth most threatened taxonomic group. In trying to understand what the main driving factor for their extinction risk was, I found out it was illegal plant trading! Admittedly, pangolin scales, ivory and skinned animals are what immediately comes to mind when I think of illegal wildlife trade. Even for myself, I overlook that such an issue will also perplex the world of plants. It seems plant blindness has once again metastasised its influence on illegal plant trading so much so that the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, an international conference that aims to synergise global efforts to eradicate illegal wildlife trade, does not have one of the world’s most trafficked and overlooked wildlife – plants on its agenda (source). Let’s look at three groups of plants that have been heavily affected by illegal plant trading.

Cycads

Cycads are commonly known as “living fossils” as they are prehistoric plants that existed almost 280 million years ago during the early Permian period.

Cycads (source)

Cycads grows incredibly slow, taking up to a year to germinate and produce its first root. In addition, cycads also reproduce infrequently and exists in small population sizes. Collectively these characteristics of cycads makes them vulnerable to extinctions (source). Making matters worse, cycads are prized for its striking features and ancient history. This value has made cycads popular among collectors who would pay an exorbitant prize to owe one (source). Consequently, a lucrative business is established among poachers who would steal cycads from botanical gardens or retrieve them from the wild to sell to collectors through criminal syndicates (source). In 2014, for example, 24 cycads, 22 of which are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List were stolen from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa (source). Just one of many other similar cases, illegal trade now threatens two-thirds of cycads.

Cacti

Cacti are sought after for their medicinal properties and demand in the horticultural trade.

Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus (source)

To illustrate, Ariocarpus kotschoubeyanus, a cactus deemed near threatened has its roots used to cure inflammations. The continued demand for its medical functions drives this species of cactus into annihilation (source). Meanwhile, rare cacti demanded by private collectors are also poached from the wild. It is said that close to 90% of threatened cacti used in horticulture were taken from wild populations (source).

Echinopsis pampana (source)

The once prevalent Echinopsis pampana saw drastic population reductions of at least 50% in Peru due to its demand in ornamental collections. Consequently, the species is now listed as endangered (source). Overall, Nature Plants revealed that 31% of cactus species are threatened with extinction and 47% of which can be attributed to illegal trading (source).

Orchids

Gastrodia elata (source)

Orchids are known to be Singapore’s national flowers. Nearing Chinese New Year, garden centres would showcase row after rows of mass-produced orchid flower pots. However, this is not the only trading ongoing as many wild orchids are being illegally traded for medicine, food and as ornamental plants. To illustrate, tubers of Gastrodia elata are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat hypertension or stroke. It contains anti-delirium and anti-convulsion which, lowers blood pressure (source). Dried stems of dendrobium orchids are also used in TCM to make shi-hu, which is said to alleviate fevers (source). Ayurvedic medicine (a traditional Indian medical system that is based on ancient knowledge) uses at least 94 species of orchids in their medicinal preparations. Not only are wild orchids being sourced for their medical properties, orchids are also associated with a syndrome known as orchidelirium, which is the obsessive desire to owe rare orchid species by collectors.

Paphiopedilum canhi (source)

Canh’s slipper orchid, Paphiopedilum canhii, is one species that have been targeted by illegal trading. The plant was unscrupulously collected from the wild and 79% of its species are consequently threatened with extinction (source). The Vietnamese orchid, Paphiopedilum canhii, has also met with a similar fate. Within a year of discovery, its population size decreased by an astonishing 99% due to illegal commercial collectors (source). Like cycads, wild orchids limited geographical range and small population sizes makes them vulnerable to illegal poaching. To date, Orchids make up almost three quarters of all species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments that combines effort to prevent extinction of wildlife due to international trading (source).  

Through these three case studies, I hope it sheds light on the issue of illegal plant trading and how important is it for us to garner more conservation efforts towards addressing this issue. Drawing parallels with my previous post, it is evident that plants withhold so much value in providing us with food, medicine and increased quality of life. The inadequacy of plant conservation efforts will ultimately harm us if we want to continue benefiting from the vast plant species we rely on.

Stay tuned for next week’s post!

Cheers,

Chloe

Hierarchy in plants?

Hi everyone! Welcome back!

In my most recent post a comment left me wondering if ‘blindness’ is present even in the taxon of plants. Jiajun commented that there is a bias towards crop plants as “we rely on these plants for income and sustenance” and thus “there is an obvious incentive for us to better understand them”. He then posed the question “Do you think this bias towards plants that provide us with direct benefits is justified? From my readings, it seems that it is not so much a disparity in the amount of research poured between the two categories of plants, but rather the significance of wild plants that is underappreciated. In this regard, I definitely feel that more credit and attention should be given to wild plants. 

Agriculture

Quite ironically, the crops that feed the world today do provide direct benefits of food and income generation, yet the system of agriculture itself such as only relying on a limited range of lucrative crop variety across the globe (source) (cultivating a mere estimated 0.5% of all edible plant species (source)) is flawed which suggests an impending doom.

The world dominated by few agricultural crops

The loss of agro-biodiversity indicates a loss of genetic diversity which reduces crops resistance capacity towards increased risk of disease and climate change effects (source). This is a worrying scenario for the state of global food security. I can’t help but to think that a dystopian future lies ahead if we remain adamant with our current crop range. Think the Irish potato famine, but on a global level. The late blight disease in Ireland could cause 1.8 million deaths. Could you just imagine the devastating effects if history were to repeat itself on a global level?

However, a solution lies within the wilderness! Wild plants can serve as a genetic bank that contain genes that are resistant to pests and diseases, tolerant to droughts and tolerant to high salinity (source). They have the potential to be utilised in global food production to allow crops to adapt in diverse environments. Crop wild relatives (CWR) share a close genetic relationship with crop plants. 77 of the world’s crops have an estimated 700 CWR that can be cross bred with them to produce better varieties in a process known as ennoblement (source). For example, when wild rice species Oryza rufipogon is crossed with cultivated rice, it produces a hybrid species with higher yields than the original cultivated variety (source).

Therefore, there is knowledge on the benefits that wild plants possess, but we lag in actively utilising and incorporating them into our diets. I suspect consumers and farmers overlook the significance of wild plants. However, there could be other obstacles as well. What do you think?

Medicine

My experience with the indigenous Agta tribe in Philippines made me realise the immense medicinal value that plants hold. To cure foot rot, they foraged the forest for native plants and made a medicinal bath consisting of varied leaves and twigs. It was fascinating to watch them work. Unsurprisingly, plants have played and will continue to play a major role in allopathic (‘Western’) medicine. From 1981 to 2002, more than half of newly discovered drugs were inspired by chemicals found in plants (source). This meant that the medicines were directly derived from the plants or were emulated from the chemical structures they contain (source).

Evidently, wild plants are just as important as plants on our plates. Wild plants allow us to strengthen our food security against the backdrop of worsening climate change effects on agriculture. Given the rise of superbugs, wild plants could be the key to finding novel, more effective drugs. Thus, preserving wild plants, in other words preserving the richness of our biodiversity is in our best interest. (Ps. my friend wrote a very insightful post on antibiotic-resistant bacteria and its relationship with wastewater treatment here! Do check it out (: )

Next up! I will be delving into the less commonly known topic of illegal wild plant trade! See you next week 😀

Cheers,

Chloe

Seeking balance

“A chorus of living wood sings to the woman: If your mind were only a slightly greener thing, we’d drown you in meaning.” – Richard Powers

From the analysis of my survey it seems that a large proportion of respondents acknowledges the importance of plants. If the same can be said about people globally, why then do we often neglect Earth’s green heritage? My classmate, Jiajun wrote an insightful post (source) on how there are discrepancies in conservation efforts among different living organisms borne out of biasedness towards ‘cuteness’. Along similar veins, plant blindness is a major contributor to lackadaisical plant conservation. While there has been progress in plant conservation, current measures are still largely insufficient.

Knowledge of plant diversity is the foundation that any plant conservation efforts need to build on. Yet, there is no certainty given in the number of plant species present on earth. Scheffers et al., (2012) estimate that 10-20% of existing flowering plant species have yet to be discovered. Without a comprehensive plant list, plant conservation will not be all-encompassing. Moreover, the extinction risk of plants is not comprehensively documented. Even in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, a resource authorities look upon to guide their conservation actions, the percentage of plant assessments covered tails behind other taxonomic groups. Today only 8.4% of plant species had been assessed at the global level using the IUCN Red List categories and criteria. That is deathly short of the 80.6% coverage given to known vertebrates. Keeping in mind that not all species of plants are known yet, 8.4% comprehensiveness could be a far generous estimate! Consequently, we cannot prioritise and deploy conservation efforts effectively.

In terms of ecosystem conservation, while Global Biodiversity Outlook (2014) states that there is increased protected area coverage on land, they do not sufficiently represent all ecosystems that have just as high significance. To exemplify, forested areas are well represented but natural grasslands (such as prairies) and estuarine ecosystems (such as mangroves) are poorly represented (Plant Conservation Report 2014). Even so, the effectiveness of gazetting a place as protected on plant conservation is unclear as studies have focussed more on evaluating improvement on animal biodiversity instead (Geldmann et al., 2013).

In terms of restoring damaged ecosystems, the Bonn Challenge aims to restore 350 million hectares of land by 2030. That is close to 480 times the size of Singapore! Initially I saw this as a beacon of hope, but further research left me disappointed. In countries that pledged to take up the challenge, 45% of the land committed to reforestation become monoculture plantations rather than natural mixed-species forestland (source). Monocultures are inadequate to support the growth of other species which contributes to rich plant biodiversity (source), or even meet the carbon sequestration demands of the Paris Climate Agreement (source)

As I reach the end of my blog post, it is wise to note that I have only outlined a few inadequacies within the sphere of plant conservation. To learn more, I urge you to check out the Plant Conservation Report that reviews the progress made towards reaching the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC). Overall, the insufficiency highlighted is a cause for concern. Strong emphasis on animal conservation should be matched with equal rigour in plant conservation. After all, it is about a system of balance…

Hope this post has been an insightful one! Till next time (“:

Cheers,

Chloe

Reference List:

Geldmann, J., Barnes, M., Coad, L., Craigie, I.D., Hockings, M. and Burgess, N.D. 2013. Effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing habitat loss and population declines. Biological Conservation, 161: 230-238.

Global Biodiversity Outlook 4. (2014). Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1–155.

Scheffers, B. R., Joppa, L. P ., Pimm, S. L. and Laurance, W . F. 2012. What we know and don’t know about Earth’s missing biodiversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 27: 501-510.

Plant Conservation Report 2014. (2014). Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1-58.

More than what meets the eye

Hello there! How has your week been?

After my small venture in trying to study the prevalence of plant blindness in Singapore, I wish to carry on my journey into exploring plant blindness impacts on something I hold dear to. That is, plant conservation! This week’s post will focus on what plant conservation really means (‘:

Initially, I had a narrowed perspective on what plant conservation entailed. I thought merely planting more trees that were endangered and important to the ecosystem would have fulfilled the criteria of conservation. This perspective was perhaps perpetuated by what I could experience in Singapore. Habitat Enhancement Projects were my go tos when I felt the urge to participate in ‘plant conservation’.  A recent project I participated in involved planting of native tree species (e.g. Petai, Tempinis, Tembusu) and removing invasive species in Chesnut Nature Park.

Habitat Enhancement Project at Chesnut Nature Park, Singapore with friends!

However, something was not quite settling right with me. I started to wonder if plant conservation was that simple…and if it wasn’t, what else did it entail?

I looked up the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), a program of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). I was pleasantly surprised to see that plant conservation encompasses a broad range of activities. I have categorised the GSPC targets into a few recognisable categories below! I also included a short write-up to elaborate on each category using GSPC and this journal as reference.

Plant conservation is far from just planting trees but includes a multi-pronged approach!

Plant conservation multi-pronged approach (graphic done by me using flaticons)

Knowledge

·       all plant species to be discovered  

·       population size, population location and phenology of all plant species to be documented

·       indicate conservation status of all plant species (e.g. critically endangered, extinct)

 

Conservation and research

·       In situ conservation

        In situ means “on-site” in Latin. Conservation work will focus on protecting plant diversity in natural settings

        Safeguarding land where threatened species occur

        Identify and remove invasive species

        Habitat enhancement to connect habitat fragments and strengthen the ecosystem for the support of the plants

Complementing the works of in situ conservation is the need for ex situ conservation. Collectively, they are known as integrated plant conservation.

·       Ex situ conservation

        Ex situ conservation focusses on protecting species diversity outside its natural occurrence.

        The main purpose is to facilitate research and education

        A common medium of ex situ conservation is botanic gardens hosting seed banks, cryopreserved plants, living specimens, and tissue cultures.

·       Research

         E.g. Advancing seed banking techniques, understanding plant reintroduction management, discovering plants ability to cope with climate change

        Document indigenous plant knowledge

 

Education

·       Spread awareness of the importance of plant diversity on all levels. That being in schooling institutions, the general public, policymakers and more.

 

Communication

·       Synergise global plant conservation efforts to enable efficient allocation of resources

·       Plant research information is shared globally

 

Policy and funding

·       Government legislation gives motivation towards conducting plant conservation

·       Funding makes plant conservation possible

·       Lays foundation to the success of the prongs listed above

 

Now that you have a better idea of what plant conservation is, my next post will build upon this understanding as I seek to discover how plant blindness impacted the success of each prong.

Can’t wait to see you back here again!

Cheers,

Chloe

My Musings

Hello! Happy to see you back here!

In a recent conversation with my professor, she gave me insights on how different ways of crafted primary research can result in potentially very different results. This encouraged me to reflect upon my primary research process and explore the pitfalls and best practices of designing questionnaires­. After doing my research, I am shocked to know that a seemingly innocent questionnaire could be so deliberately crafted! Ohh was I ignorant! Here are a few of my key takeaways. 

Sampling framework

Firstly, my questionnaire was a convenient but poor sampling framework. My initial aim was to discover the prevalence of Plant Blindness in Singapore, but I reached out to groups that were not reflective of the demographics of Singapore. Most evident is the fact that respondents (my peers) would be around the same age group as me. The digital nature of the survey also limited respondents to those with access to a personal computer and internet access. Furthermore, I have learned that this was a self-selected questionnaire. People could choose not to respond, and these non-respondents usually differ characteristically from respondents (Utts 2014). For example, I felt that I could be more inclusive in question 2, below.

(Source: my survey)

By only giving two options, I immediately excluded those that may not have any preference or prefer both animals and plants equally. They could have decided not to complete the survey due to the absence of an option that matches their likely answer. Collectively, the sample bias makes it hard for my survey to reliably estimate population sentiments (Utts 2014).

Questions

Yet even with perfect random sampling, the reliability of the results hinges on well-crafted and organised questions.

Not only must the wording be clear and unbiased such that all respondents interpret the question the same way, it is also important to ask only one question at a time (Pew Research Centre n.d.). The following questions were ‘double-barrelled questions’ that involved two concepts “environment” and “human affairs”.

(Source: my survey)

The scope of interpretation could be too big and hence, respondents could answer using many varied perspectives. This makes an exact interpretation of results hard. If given the chance again, I would separate it into two questions!

Learning about the “order effect” also taught me that respondents are much more likely to consider concepts raised in earlier questions when responding to subsequent questions (Pew Research Centre n.d.). In my survey, I explained and asked about the concept of Plant Blindness before asking which living group they preferred. I speculate that this could either:

  1. Cause more to select animals due to the relatability of the concept 
  2. Cause more to choose plants as they realise that Plant Blindness is likely a negative phenomenon (derogatory word “Blindness” revealed). 

In addition, when given a list of answer choices like in the question below, results are subjected to “recency effect” where respondents frequently choose items listed further below (Bowling, 2005).

(Source: my survey)

The close-ended nature of the question (checklist) also meant that there is a certain level of influence in determining people respond to their reasons. A study done by Pew Research Centre can be found here that shows how open and close-ended way of asking questions can elicit different responses.

I found the following suggestions to reduce these pitfalls the most useful (Pew Research Centre n.d.)!

·       Randomize the order of the choices each time the survey is taken to reduce the recency effect.

·       Conduct a pilot study using open-ended questions to find which answers are most common. Then, craft closed-ended questions that include the most common responses as answer choices.

I’ve reached the end of this blog post but I have barely scratched the surface! If you would like to know more about optimal questionnaire designing, I highly recommend this journal. For all the visual learners, don’t fret! I gotcha back (: I found the following CrashCourse YouTube video to be insightful and concise!

(Source: YouTube Video)

Admittedly, my survey results are not the most accurate and reliable (“: However, I hope that through uncovering my survey pitfalls, you have benefitted and learned something new today! Feel free to comment any other suggestions. I would love to hear about them!

Cheers,

Chloe

Reference List:

Ann Bowling, Mode of questionnaire administration can have serious effects on data quality, Journal of Public Health, Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2005, Pages 281–291, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdi031

Questionnaire design. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/methods/u-s-survey-research/questionnaire-design/

Utts, J. M. (2014). Seeing Through Statistics (4th ed.). Cengage Learning.

 

The Grand Reveal

Hey everyone! Welcome back!

Ever since I published the first post, I became curious to know more about the prevalence of ‘Plant Blindness’ in Singapore. Do people in Singapore really perceive animals of having higher importance than plants? And do they really appreciate animals more?

Immediately, I got to work. I crafted a short questionnaire and reached out to numerous people through my social media platforms. I crafted questions that kept definitions vague to allow personal interpretation. I felt that this could reduce the influences of my personal bias on the results. Over the course of a few days, I managed to receive 118 responses and oh my, can I say the results were interesting!

Presenting to you…

(Source: my survey)

As expected, a vast majority of respondents (83.1%) were unaware of the term ‘Plant Blindness’ and its concept (brief background knowledge was given in the survey). This suggests that many were unaware of the fact that they could be harbouring a bias towards animals.

(Source: my survey)

In support of my initial hypothesis, a vast majority of respondents (83.1%) also indicated that they appreciated animals more than plants.

(Source: my survey)
(Source: my survey)

 

Yet, interestingly from a scale of 1-5, plants were found to be viewed as more important for the environment and humans. Comparatively, plants scored an average of 4.65 while animals scored a lower average of 4.40. This took me by surprise! There seems to be a contradiction in the results I have obtained? By intuition, I felt that there should be a correlation between higher appreciation for animals and finding them more important for the environment and us…

To understand the discrepancy in my previous understanding, I looked towards my final survey question’s result: people’s reasoning for appreciating one over the other.

In a given checklist with the option to also provide their own reasons, 57% of respondents cited animals being cuter (i.e. more visually appealing) than plants. 71% also found that they could interact more with animals. (Citing more salient results)

Meanwhile, I could broadly classify reasons for appreciating plants more than animals in three categories.

1)     Acknowledgment of them being foundational to sustaining life forces

“Plants are essential in providing us with oxygen and can be used for so many purposes beneficial to human such as medicine and a food source.”*

“Plants are literally the driving force of all our ecosystems!! they’re the only organisms that can convert light energy to chemical energy and hence they literally give life to the earth :)”*

2)     Therapeutic effects

“they are calming to be with”*

“they give a sense of tranquillity”*

3) Safety

“But mainly I’m afraid of animals so plants are relatively harmless!”*

So…I postulate, and only dare to postulate!! That the “contradiction” was perhaps because animal-lovers’ reasons were driven strongly from a personal standpoint (reasons related more to tangible benefits to self). This overrides the considerably more abstract knowledge that plants are incredibly vital for the environment and us.

There are so many things wrong with my study!!

Admittedly, I am no expert on how to conduct reliable and objective primary research (“: In fact, this was my first time crafting a survey for research purposes! Stay tuned for my next post as I reflect upon my primary research process and share my learning points!

Cheers,

Chloe

*Anonymous quotation extracted from results of survey

A Warm Welcome

My visit to Singapore’s The Bicentennial Experience, Seed Conservatory

Hey there! I see that you’ve stumbled upon my blog! A very warm welcome to you :>

I am Chloe a Year 1 student pursuing a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Biology at NUS. Many know me as a plant fanatic! I enjoy community gardening, embarked on my own mini urban farming venture, and absolutely love participating in habitat enhancement projects. How I fell in love with the world of plants, you ask? Perhaps what sealed the deal, was an overseas service-learning trip to Malatunglan Jungle, Philippines, with the indigenous Agta tribe.

There, I witnessed a sustainable lifestyle in touch with nature, where plants supported the livelihood of its people. It hit me. Plants, these silent givers, hold incredible value. Its varied beauty, functionality, and symbolism never fail to reignite my wonderment. It is no wonder why my passion for plants, from ornamental plants to trees, runs deep till today.

 Addressing the elephant in the room

Now that you’ve gotten to know me slightly better, let us address the important question: What is my blog about?

My source of inspiration came when I chanced upon the term “plant blindness” coined by Wandersee and Schussler. What was initially an intuitive thought, that fewer people appreciated and understood plants, say in comparison to animals, was cemented by an article published in Plant Science Bulletin and BioScience. Against the backdrop of a worsening extinction crisis, with up to a million animal and plant species said to vanish in a decade time (United Nations 2019), the prevalence of “plant blindness” paints an ominous picture for the conservation status of plants.

Hence, driven by my interest in plants and a sense of urgency to play my part in this global crisis, my blog aims to shed light on major environmental issues surrounding the broad theme of plants. You can expect posts to delve into loss of plant biodiversity, forest fires, and even less commonly known issues such as illegal plant trade.

I hope that my blog would be an engaging platform for you to know more about our world’s thorny environmental issues. And if it strikes a chord in you, join me in our efforts to conserve our world’s natural heritage. There is certainly no better time than now! (“:

Cheers,

Chloe

Reference List:

(2019, May 6). UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/