Rate of Photosynthesis vs. Environmental Temperature

Written by john brennan
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Rate of Photosynthesis vs. Environmental Temperature
Environmental factors can affect the rate of photosynthesis. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Environmental factors, like the amount of light and the ambient temperature, affect the rate at which photosynthesis takes place in plants. Plants typically have an optimal temperature range that will result in maximum productivity.

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There are two stages to photosynthesis: the light reactions and the light-independent reactions or Calvin cycle. The light reactions are temperature-independent, meaning that their rate does not change significantly with temperature, while the light-independent reactions are temperature-dependent.


The rate of carbon fixation increases with increasing temperature up to the optimal temperature range, a range over which the rate remains relatively constant. Once temperatures increase beyond the optimal range, the rate of carbon fixation declines. The optimal temperature range varies depending on the plant species but is typically well below human body temperature.


Rising temperature boosts the rate of many enzyme-catalysed reactions, although only up to a point. As the temperature increases, so does the rate of photorespiration, a process that decreases the efficiency of photosynthesis in most plants. If the temperature goes even higher still, at some point enzymes can become denatured or lose their shape, which would inhibit the process of photosynthesis further still.

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