On the evolutionary pathways resulting in C4 photosynthesis and crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM)

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37 Scopus citations


Plants with C4 photosynthesis have a net photosynthetic rate which continues to increase with increasing radiation flux rather than levelling off above a saturation level, as it does in C3 plants. The initial evolutionary stages of C4 photosynthesis are argued to have been driven by selection for reduced photorespiration rates and the influence of such reduction on net CO2 assimilation rate. Plants with CAM conserve water by maintaining their stomata open at night, and absorbing CO2, but closed during the day; this is done by dissociating CO2 fixation from that of energy capture. Assimilation of respired CO2 during the night, with assimilation of atmopsheric CO2 during the day is proposed as a precursor to the evolution of fully-expressed CAM in some species. Both C4 and CAM plants have arisen from C3 ancestors. Thus both C4 photosynthesis and CAM may both have originated from mechanisms that improved the plant's carbon balance by assimilating internally-generated CO2. Comments are included on costs associated with each pathway. -P.J.Jarvis

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-110
Number of pages54
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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