Photosynthesis

There are three biochemical pathways for photosynthesis: (1) the C3 or Calvin-Benson cycle, (2) the C4 pathway, and (3) the Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) pathway. The latter is least efficient in terms of the amount of plant biomass formed per unit of energy received. Plants using the CAM pathway are, however, able to survive in harsh, arid environments that would be inhospitable to C3 and C4 plants. CAM photosynthesis will generally switch to C3 as soon as sufficient water becomes available (Shugart, 1998). The CAM pathways yield the highest biomass production, reflecting exergy storage, under arid conditions, while the other two give highest net production (exergy storage) under other conditions. While it is true that a gram of plant biomass produced by the three pathways has different free energies in each case, in a general way improved biomass production by any of the pathways can be taken to be in a direction that is consistent, under the conditions, with the exergy storage hypothesis.

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