Vegetation is plant life, which can vary from unexplored tropical forests to the cultivated plants of a farm or garden. Plant life is a topic of interest among many scientists and researchers because it plays an important role in the interconnected systems of life on Earth. Vegetation provides food, shelter, habitat, and a number of other services to the natural world, whether it is clinging to sandy dunes in the desert or taking over abandoned properties in a settled temperate zone. People who study plant life on Earth include botanists, general biologists, ecologists, agronomists, foresters, and oceanographers.
Several scientific organizations have classified the world's vegetation to create a series of biomes, zones on Earth with shared characteristics which can be defined by the plant life they contain. There are a number of classification systems in use, depending on where in the world one is, which describe biomes in terms such as the types of plants found there, the soil conditions, the climate, and the historical use of the land. Some examples of vegetation biomes include tropical plants, high alpine plants, and desert plants.
One important function of vegetation is soil stabilization and enrichment. Having plants around improves the soil, with the plants trapping nutrients and water to make the soil better. In addition, the roots and other structures of the plant work to hold down the topsoil so that it is not lost. Vegetation also plays a role in flood control, as plants can help to create buffer zones which keep flood waters at bay, especially in marshlands.
For animals, vegetation provides ample habitat along with food. Animals live in plants or use plant materials to construct homes, and many plants are edible, for at least some species. Other animals in turn prey on animals which feed on vegetation. Gardeners, whether they are growing food or ornamental plants, utilize plant life in a variety of creative ways, depending on the climate or zone they grow in.
In areas where vegetation is lacking or scrubby, it can contribute to environmental problems. Loss of vegetation contributes to loss of topsoil, making the soil less useful, and it can also cause the area to grow warmer because the plants are not acting as a heat sink to keep temperatures more moderate. Lack of plants also means lack of food, a serious problem in regions of the world which are undergoing desertification and experiencing food insecurity as a result.