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Uptake of water and minerals by roots:

Plants need to obtain certain raw materials from their environment. The roots of the plant are adapted to absorb both minerals and water from the soil. Water enters the plant through root hair cells:

Root Hair Cells Root hair cells have an enormous surface area. This helps them absorb water and minerals from the soil. They are very delicate and easily damaged. When plants are transplanted they recover much more quickly if the roots are kept in a ball of soil or compost so that the root hairs are not disturbed.

Minerals have a number of individual functions and together have a great effect on the water potential of the plant tissues. Minerals from the soil are absorbed in the form of ions, for example, magnesium enters the root as Mg2+ ions and nitrogen enters as nitrate No3 ions.

Transport systems in plants:

Substances need to be transported for long distances throughout a plants body sugars, for example, are produced in the photosynthesising cells of the leaves and may need to be transported to storage cells in the roots. The water and ions absorbed by the roots may be required by cells at the growing tip (the meristem) of the shoot. These long-distance transport functions are carried out by two specialised plant tissues the xylem and the phloem. These are tubes running through the plant, collected together in the vascular bundles. Xylem Tissue Xylem tissue contains long xylem vessels adapted for the rapid transport of water and dissolved mineral ions. Movement is always up the stem.


Walls are thickened with lignin. This is waterproof and strong enough to prevent the cells collapsing inwards. In the shoot, the xylem is on the inside of the vascular bundle, helping support the stem.

No cytoplasm or organelles cells are dead. There is no obstruction to the flow of water and mineral ions.

End walls removed cells join to form long tubes called xylem vessels.

Phloem Tissue Phloem tissue contains sieve tubes and companion cells. It is adapted for transport of the organic products of photosynthesis ie. sugars and amino acids. This transport is called translocation. Features: Thin cytoplasm cell must remain alive or sugar transport stops. No nucleus or organelles, so sugar flow is not impeded. Pores in sieve plates allow sugars to pass from one cell to the next. Companion cell does not transport sugar but carries out some life processes of the sieve tissues.

Here are the positions of xylem and phloem tissues as seen in transverse sections of roots, stems and leaves:

An experiment that shows how water is transported through the above ground parts of plants is described below: 1. Cut a piece of celery and stand it in a coloured solution (suitable stains include eosin [red] and methylene blue [blue]).

2. Leave for a few hours. 3. Carefully cut off about 5 cm of the celery, and use a hand lens to look for the stain. The coloured solution has been carried up the xylem.

Translocation is the movement of sucrose and amino acids in the phloem from regions of production to regions of storage.

Water evaporates from the parts of a plant that are exposed to the atmosphere. The greatest loss of water takes place through the stomata, minute pores on the leaf surface. There are usually more stomata on the lower surface of the leaves than on the upper surface. The lower surface is less exposed to the warmth from the sun, which would speed up the evaporation rate. Water movement through a plant begins with the diffusion of water vapour out of the leaf and evaporation from the leaf surface (spongy mesophyll). 98% of the water taken up by a

plant is lost the atmosphere by transpiration.

This process is known as transpiration. In short: Transpiration is the evaporation of water at the surfaces of the mesophyll cells followed by loss of water vapour from plants leaves, through the stomata. Atmospheric conditions may affect transpiration. Here are some of them: Wind move humid air away from the leaf surface and increases transpiration. High temperatures increase the water holding capacity of the air and increase transpiration. Low humidity increases the water potential gradient between leaf and atmosphere and increases transpiration.

High light intensity causes stomata to open (to allow photosynthesis) which allows transpiration to occur.

All living organisms require energy. This means that glucose and oxygen must be transported throughout the body. To do this, large organisms have a specialised transport system. This system, called the blood system in all vertebrate animals, is an example of a mass flow system. A mass flow system carries large volumes of fluid to all parts of the organism. A system like this has four parts: A medium the fluid that flows in the system and carries materials around the body. This is the blood. A system of tubes that carries the fluid from place to place. These are the arteries and veins. A pump that supplies pressure to keep the fluid moving through the tubes. This is the heart. Sites of exchange that allow materials delivered by the blood to enter the tissues that need them. These are the capillaries. The average adult human has about 5 dm3 of blood, which contains a number of blood cells in a watery liquid (plasma). If a sample of blood is allowed to stand, and a chemical is added to prevent clotting, it will separate into layers as shown below:

Blood cells are first formed in the bone marrow of long bone such as the femur (thigh bone), although they may go on the other parts of the body to be fully developed. The table below shows the structure and function of different types of blood cells: Cell Type Appearance Function How the structure is suited to the function
Red blood cells (erythrocytes) Transport oxygen from lungs to all respiring tissues. Prepare carbon dioxide for transport from all respiring tissues to lungs. Contain haemoglobin, an iron-containing pigment which picks up oxygen at the lungs and lets go of it at the tissues. Have no nucleus, leaving more space for haemoglobin. Cells are small and flexible, so can squeeze through narrow capillaries.

White blood cells (phagocytes)

Remove any microorganisms that invade the body and might cause infection. The phagocyte engulfs the microorganism.

Irregular shaped nucleus allows the cell to squeeze through gaps in walls of capillaries. Enzymes in cytoplasm digest microorganisms once engulfed. Sensitive cell surface membrane can detect microorganisms.

White blood cells (lymphocytes)

Produce antibodies proteins that help in the defence against disease.

Large nucleus contains many copies of genes for the control of antibody protein production. Can release blood-clotting enzymes.


Cell fragments involved in blood clotting.

The circulatory system:

Blood flows around the body in a system of tube-like blood vessels, arranged in such a way that they all eventually lead back to the heart. The blood flows away from the heart in vessels called arteries, and it flows back towards the heart in vessels called veins. In humans, the main artery is called the aorta and the main vein is called the vena cava. The structure and function of arteries and veins are shown in the table below:

Type of vessel


Adaptations of structure to function



Smooth lining so no obstruction to flow of blood. Carries blood away from the heart to the tissues. Blood is at high pressure. Blood is rich in oxygen, low in carbon dioxide (except in the pulmonary artery). Elastic walls expand and relax as blood is forced out of the heart. Thick walls withstand the high pressure of blood. Carries blood from the tissues to the heart. Blood is at low pressure. Blood is low in oxygen, high in carbon dioxide (except in the pulmonary artery). Valves prevent the backflow of blood. Blood is at low pressure, but nearby muscles squeeze the veins and help push blood back towards the heart. Large diameter and thin walls reduce resistance to the flow of blood.

The arrangement is called a double circulation because the blood passes through the heart twice for each complete circuit of the body. The blood flows to the lungs under high pressure (so a large volume of blood flows past the lung surfaces in a short time). Then, having picked up oxygen at the lungs, the blood receives another boost of pressure from the heart to drive it out to the tissues, where the oxygen is needed.

To reach the cells that need hem, dissolved substances carried in the blood must leave the blood vessels and enter the tissues. At the same time, waste materials produced by the tissues need to enter the blood and tissues by diffusion across the walls of very fine blood vessels called capillaries. There walls are about 1 m thick and they have a very large surface area. This means: Substances do not have very far to diffuse through them. They have a lot of space for diffusion to occur. They are constantly supplied with fresh blood, keeping up the concentration gradients of dissolved substances between blood and tissues. Without these concentration gradients diffusion could not occur. The diagram shows how materials are exchanged between the blood and tissues:

The Heart:
The heart of a mammal pumps blood through the circulatory system. It provides the pressure that forces the blood through arteries, capillaries and veins. The pressure is generated by the squeezing of the walls of the heart against the incompressible fluid blood. The heart walls can squeeze the blood because they are made of muscle. The heart is divided into two sides, each of which acts as a pump. The right side of the heart pumps deoxygenated blood coming from the tissues out to the lungs. The left side pumps oxygenated blood coming from the lungs out to the tissues. The left side of the heart is much more muscular than the right side as a much greater pressure (five times as much) is needed to force blood to the extremities out the body than to drive blood to the lungs. Even though the two sides of the heart generate different pressures, they work in the same way and have the same parts:

Aorta the main artery of the body; carries oxygenated blood out to the tissues. Blood pressure is at its highest in the aorta, and the strongest pulse is felt here.

Pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood to the lungs. Valves make sure that the blood flows in the right direction. Vena cava the main vein of the body; returns deoxygenated blood from the head and lower body to the right atrium.

The atrium receives blood at low pressure from the veins (coming from the lungs or tissues). Right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the vena cava. The pacemaker is found in the wall of the right atrium. Left atrium receives oxygenated blood returning from the lungs. Atria have thin walls since they need only pump blood to the ventricles.

The ventricle pumps blood at high pressure out to the arteries (to the lungs or tissues). Wall of right ventricle less muscular than left ventricle since in need only force blood along the pulmonary arteries to the lungs.

Wall of left ventricle thick and muscular since it must force blood through the arteries to all the tissues of the body.

Pulmonary vein returns oxygenated blood from the lungs. A vein from each lung joins together before entering the left atrium.

The pattern of contraction and relaxation is kept going by electrical signals sent from a region of the heart called the pacemaker. This is a specialised piece of tissue in the wall of the right atrium. It is sensitive to the swelling of the heart wall as blood enters the heart from the main veins. The signals from the pacemaker make sure that the atria contract just before the ventricles, so that blood flows from atria to ventricles and the heartbeat is fast enough to meet the demands of the tissues for oxygen and nutrients, and for the removal of wastes.

Blood pressure and exercise:

As the ventricles of the heart contract they force blood at high pressure into the arteries. This pressure needs to carry blood to the working tissues, but it must not be so high that is damages the blood vessels. Blood vessels can be varied, such as to force more blood During strenuous exercise such as running, the muscles work hard. They need more oxygen and glucose to release energy by respiration, so they need an increased circulation of blood to supply oxygen and glucose. This is achieved in two ways:

The heart pumps more blood each minute it beats more quickly and more deeply. Sphincters control the distribution of blood rings of muscle open to increase the blood flow to the muscles, and close to decrease the blood flow to less important areas such as the gut.