Evolutionary and ecological aspects of photosynthetic pathway variation

James R. Ehleringer, Russell Monson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

493 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

C4 and CAM photosynthesis are evolutionarily derived from C3 photosynthesis. The morphological and biochemical modifications necessary to achieve either C4 or CAM photosynthesis are thought to have independently arisen numerous times within different higher plant taxa. It is thought that C4 photosynthesis evolved in response to the low atmospheric CO2 concentrations that arose sometime after the end of the Cretaceous. Low CO2 concentrations result in significant increases in photorespiration of C3 plants, reducing productivity; both C3-C4 intermediate and C4 plants exhibit reduced photorespiration rates. In contrast, it may be argued that CAM arose either in response to selection of increased water-use efficiency or for increased carbon gain. Globally, all three pathways are widely distributed today, with a tendency toward ecological adaptation of C4 plants into warm, monsoonal climates and CAM plants into water-limited habitats. In an anthropogenically altered CO2 environment, C4 plants may lose their competitive advantage over C3 plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-439
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology and Systematics
Volume24
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

C4 photosynthesis
C4 plants
C4 plant
Crassulacean acid metabolism
photosynthesis
photorespiration
C3 plants
C3 plant
C3 photosynthesis
water use efficiency
climate
carbon
Cretaceous
habitats
productivity
habitat
water

Keywords

  • C photosynthesis
  • C photosynthesis
  • Crassulacean acid metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)

Cite this

Evolutionary and ecological aspects of photosynthetic pathway variation. / Ehleringer, James R.; Monson, Russell.

In: Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 24, No. 1, 1993, p. 411-439.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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