It’s estimated that the first land plants evolved 450 million years ago. 20 million years later, plants began to diversify and built most of the recognizable characteristics (roots, leaves, wood) we associate with modern plants. This evolutionary radiation on to land is arguably one of the most important niche expansions of all time, as it set the stage, for the diversification of many other life forms that would arise and fall in the coming millennium.
In summary, plants have been kicking ass in terrestrial systems for millions of years, and it doesn’t look like their complete dominance will let up anything soon (Side-note: but humans are pretty good at making impossible things happen. Like chemically changing the climate. So who knows?).
Since most plants are terrestrial, and owe much of their dominance to land and air. Plants that have undergone the transition from land to sea provide a fascinating example of retro-niche colonization.
Of course, if you’ve talked to me in the past week, you know that this is the point that I transition into talking about mangroves.
(above: Here you see a mangrove forest. If you look closely you can see coral, sponges, and mollusks growing on their submerged aerial roots.)
Mangroves are awesome. They can be found land, sea, air making them plant equivalent of all terrain vehicles. Besides dealing with physiological hurdles they also are important members of the aquatic ecosystem as they provide a niche for all sorts of organisms.
I want to know what the red mangrove has done to deal with increase salinity, decreased air, and radically different soil type (nutrient availability). With the suspension that it has made new microbial symbioses to deal with it’s new environment. Also how do mangrove forest effect ecosystem level processes in the ocean and shallow soil there found in? How do they effect the algal community in surrounding water, and the surrounding soil type? I have too many questions and no answers so I should end it here.