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Plants Adapting To Shade Conditions Essay

1023 words - 4 pages

Plants Adapting to Shade Conditions

Conditions of shade present low average light intensity for plants,
along with a difference in the quality of light (in terms of the
numbers of quanta of different wavelengths). Shade light contains more
far-red and infra-red quanta and fewer quanta in the range 400 -
680nm. Additionally, light quality and quantity can vary enormously
and rapidly due to the occurrence of sunflecks, (a valuable source of
light, yet potentially damaging.)

Adaptation to shade conditions can be determined genetically or be due
to acclimation. Obligate shade plants have evolved genetically to
exist in permanent shade and cannot acclimate to long-term levels of
high light intensity. However there are plants that show an element of
phenotypic plasticity and can acclimate to low (and others to high)
light intensities.

* Shade plants can absorb and utilize low light intensities more
efficiently than sun plants; they have a lower light compensation
point and achieve net carbon fixation at lower light fluxes. It is
their structural and biochemical characteristics which facilitate
these properties.

* At a structural level, shade plants have thinner leaves, with a
shallow layer of palisade mesophyll and patchy spongy mesophyll
containing more air spaces. They have fewer cells per unit area
than sun leaves. Less energy is needed for the construction and
maintenance of these thin leaves, making them energy efficient in
low light intensities and allowing the respiration rate to be

* At a biochemical level, shade plants have more light harvesting
pigments in their antennae systems. They have wide grana with
large numbers of stacked thylakoids, and a ratio of up to five
times more appressed: non-appressed lamellae than in sun plants.
These features represent a higher proportion of photosystem II
(PSII) relative to photosystem I (PSI).

* Given that PSI becomes relatively more excited than PSII in
far-red enriched light, and that there must be equal excitation of
both photosystems in order that non-cyclic electron transport may
proceed smoothly, these features are significant in facilitating
the necessary increased absorption by PSII to maintain equilibrium

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