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The Importance of Water to Living Organisms

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Introduction

The Importance of Water to Living Organisms Without water, life could not exist on this planet. It is doubly important to living organisms because it is both a vital chemical constituent of living cells and for many a habitat too. It covers three quarters of the earth's surface and is the only compound known to man that exists naturally in the three states of matter- solid ice is found at both poles culminating in a formidable climate for living beings; liquid water is found in even the driest region; water vapour is found in hugely variable amounts as part of the earth's atmosphere, which shields its inhabitants from the deadly radiation emitted from the sun. Water is such a fundamental part of human life that the first temperature scale to ever have been constructed, the Celsius scale, has its 'bench marks', as it were, set around water's freezing point (0oC) and boiling point (100oC). Water makes up 65- 70% of our total body mass, and this mass remains relatively constant throughout the day. This means that the 2-3 dm3 of water lost daily from the body must be replaced by fluids or food consumed by us each day. The importance of water to life becomes clear when it is considered that a human being deprived of food may live for up to 60 days, but for only a few days if deprived of water. Therefore, judging by the impressive introduction, it would be worthwhile to have a look at some of water's properties. ...read more.

Middle

floats on water, being less dense than it. Water is the only substance whose solid form is less dense than its liquid form. The reason this unique property exists is, surprise surprise, again down to its hydrogen bonds. As water cools below 4oC and then freezes, the molecules lose increasing amounts of energy. This causes them to vibrate less and contract together. As this occurs, more hydrogen bonds form between the molecules (as water does not have 100% hydrogen bonding). When these hydrogen bonds form, they push the water molecules between which they have formed apart, decreasing the density of the water. Therefore, at 0oC, there is 100% hydrogen bonding, causing ice to be less dense than water. Since ice floats on water, it forms at the surface first and at the bottom last. If ponds froze from the bottom upwards, aquatic life would not be able to survive in arctic climates. Once the ice has formed at the surface of ponds, it insulates the rest of the pond, increasing the chance of survival of the organisms in the water. The fact that water below 4oC will rise to the top due to it's low density, allows for circulation in large bodies of water, which results in nutrient cycling, providing a chance for colonisation of water at greater depths. Incompressibility: Due to the fact that water is incompressible, it is invaluable to many soft-bodied organisms as a hydro skeleton, such as earthworms. ...read more.

Conclusion

As the light is able to penetrate through the water, it enables the plants to photosynthesise. This not only keeps them and the millions of other organisms dependent on them for food alive, but it also allows oxygen to be produced and eventually released into the atmosphere from the water. Another example of how water's transparency benefits living organisms is the ability for mammals to see, as the aqueous and vitreous humour found in mammalian eyes (which helps keep the pressure within the eyes high) largely consists of water. No doubt, reading through these properties of water conjures up images of the shear essentialness of water within the mind. Put simply, without this modest compound, earth would be a barren place, devoid of all live. It is our very essence and yet it is still a slave to us, such is the parasitic nature of man. We use it care free for cooking and cleaning, for bathing and carrying away wastes. Our factories use more water than any other material and our demand for it is ever increasing, as the population of this fourth rock from the sun soars, almost exponentially. However, mockingly, it is also our master. Great civilisations have risen where water was plentiful- they have fallen where supplies failed. Men have killed one another over muddy holes and have been forced to worship rain Gods. Often droughts have been partnered by famine, disease and war. As demand for water grows, man will need to make better use of his supplies. The more he learns about this fourth element of the earth, the better he will be able to face his challenge. ...read more.

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