Photosynthesis in CAM Plants/Succulents (L80)

Give one or more reasons that photosynthesis is challenging for plants in a desert environment. Describe in detail the adaptations that plants have made in order to deal with this challenge.

Plants that inhabit desert environments are called crassulacean acid metabolism plants, or CAM plants for short. The CAM plant group is generally¬†comprised of different succulents, such as pineapples and cacti. What makes their photosynthesis process unique from that of normal plants is the fact that they do things in a somewhat delayed, more complicated and elongated process. Normal plants are able to “work” throughout the day, and the sunlight it crucial to their schedule; during the daylight they will open their stomata (leaf pores) to absorb carbon from the air. Then, during the night, they will will close their stomata to conserve water. Desert plants function in quite the opposite fashion, and due to the ravenous dry heat, they are forced to close their stomata during the day, and open them at night. This makes it possible for the plant to both conserve water throughout the day, and absorb carbon through the night. The only trouble with this is that ATP and NADPH aren’t available at night, and so the CAM plants have the ability to absorb their intake of carbon using organic acids. This carbon is stored until the daylight returns and it can be released to begin producing energy.

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