EFFECTIVENESS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS - Sargassum is found in the tropical oceans of the
world. They are a brown seaweed which may grow to a length of
meters, and floating rafts several kilometers in length,
reliant on energy from the sun to proliferate, and spoil the
day for these beach cleaners on the shores of the Caribbean
almost all life on earth depends on light energy from the
Most plants, algae, and cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis; such organisms are called photoautotrophs. Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere.
Photosynthesis, the process by which green plants and certain other organisms transform light energy into chemical energy. During photosynthesis in green plants, light energy is captured and used to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into oxygen and energy-rich organic compounds.
It would be impossible to overestimate the importance of photosynthesis in the maintenance of life on Earth. If photosynthesis ceased, there would soon be little
food or other organic matter on
Earth. Most organisms would disappear, and in time Earth’s atmosphere would become nearly devoid of gaseous oxygen. The only organisms able to exist under such conditions would be the chemosynthetic bacteria, which can utilize the chemical energy of certain inorganic compounds and thus are not dependent on the conversion of light energy.
Energy produced by photosynthesis carried out by plants millions of years ago is responsible for the fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil, and gas) that power industrial society. In past ages, green plants and small organisms that fed on plants increased faster than they were consumed, and their remains were deposited in Earth’s crust by sedimentation and other geological processes. There, protected from oxidation, these organic remains were slowly converted to fossil fuels. These fuels not only provide much of the energy used in factories, homes, and transportation but also serve as the raw material for
plastics and other synthetic products.
Unfortunately, modern civilization is using up in a few centuries the excess of photosynthetic production accumulated over millions of years. Consequently, the
carbon dioxide that has been removed from the
air to make carbohydrates in photosynthesis over millions of years is being returned at an incredibly rapid rate. The carbon dioxide concentration in Earth’s atmosphere is rising the fastest it ever has in Earth’s history, and this phenomenon is expected to have major implications on Earth’s
During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and
water (H2O) from the air and soil. Within the plant cell, the water is oxidized, meaning it loses electrons, while the carbon dioxide is reduced, meaning it gains electrons. This transforms the water into oxygen and the carbon dioxide into glucose. The plant then releases the oxygen back into the air, and stores energy within the glucose molecules.
POWERED - This basic SeaVax machine ( seen here as a proof of concept
working model), is powered by the sun. The photovoltaic
panels covert sunlight directly to electrical energy much more
efficiently than plants convert light into chemical energy.
Inside the plant cell are small organelles called chloroplasts, which store the energy of sunlight. Within the thylakoid membranes of the chloroplast is a light-absorbing pigment called chlorophyll, which is responsible for giving the plant its green color. During photosynthesis, chlorophyll absorbs energy from blue- and red-light waves, and reflects green-light waves, making the plant appear green.
LIGHT DEPENDENT REACTIONS VS. LIGHT
While there are many steps behind the process of photosynthesis, it can be broken down into two major stages: light-dependent reactions and light-independent reactions. The light-dependent reaction takes place within the thylakoid membrane and requires a steady stream of sunlight, hence the name light-dependent reaction. The chlorophyll absorbs energy from the light waves, which is converted into chemical energy in the form of the molecules ATP and NADPH. The light-independent stage, also known as the Calvin Cycle, takes place in the stroma, the space between the thylakoid membranes and the chloroplast membranes, and does not require light, hence the name light-independent reaction. During this stage, energy from the ATP and NADPH molecules is used to assemble carbohydrate molecules, like glucose, from carbon dioxide.
C3 AND C4 PHOTOSYNTHESIS
Not all forms of photosynthesis are created equal, however. There are different types of photosynthesis, including C3 photosynthesis and C4 photosynthesis. C3 photosynthesis is used by the majority of plants. It involves producing a three-carbon compound called 3-phosphoglyceric acid during the Calvin Cycle, which goes on to become glucose. C4 photosynthesis, on the other hand, produces a four-carbon intermediate compound, which splits into carbon dioxide and a three-carbon compound during the Calvin Cycle. A benefit of C4 photosynthesis is that by producing higher levels of carbon, it allows plants to thrive in environments without much light or water.
Plants usually convert light into chemical energy with a photosynthetic efficiency of 3–6%. Absorbed light that is unconverted is dissipated primarily as heat, with a small fraction (1–2%) re-emitted as chlorophyll fluorescence at longer (redder) wavelengths. This fact allows measurement of the light reaction of photosynthesis by using chlorophyll fluorometers.
Actual plants' photosynthetic efficiency varies with the frequency of the light being converted, light intensity, temperature and proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and can vary from 0.1% to 8%. By comparison, solar panels convert light into electric energy at an efficiency of approximately 6–20% for mass-produced panels, and above 40% in laboratory devices. Scientists are studying photosynthesis in hopes of developing plants with increased yield.
AND THE EVOLUTION OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS
The biochemical capacity to use water as the source for electrons in photosynthesis evolved once, in a common ancestor of extant cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae), which are the only prokaryotes performing oxygenic photosynthesis. The geological record indicates that this transforming event took place early in Earth's history, at least 2450–2320 million years ago (Ma), and, it is speculated, much earlier. Because the Earth's atmosphere contained almost no oxygen during the estimated development of photosynthesis, it is believed that the first photosynthetic cyanobacteria did not generate oxygen.
Available evidence from geobiological studies of Archean (>2500 Ma) sedimentary rocks indicates that life existed 3500 Ma, but the question of when oxygenic photosynthesis evolved is still unanswered. A clear paleontological window on cyanobacterial evolution opened about 2000 Ma, revealing an already-diverse biota of cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria remained the principal primary producers of oxygen throughout the Proterozoic Eon (2500–543 Ma), in part because the redox structure of the oceans favored photoautotrophs capable of nitrogen fixation.
Green algae joined cyanobacteria as the major primary producers of oxygen on continental shelves near the end of the Proterozoic, but only with the Mesozoic (251–66 Ma) radiations of dinoflagellates, coccolithophorids, and diatoms did the primary production of oxygen in marine shelf waters take modern form. Cyanobacteria remain critical to marine ecosystems as primary producers of oxygen in oceanic gyres, as agents of biological nitrogen fixation, and, in modified form, as the plastids of marine algae.
- The giant brown seaweed, having shown that it can spread
from North to South Atlantic oceans, could spread to the
Indian and Pacific oceans as a potentially invasive species.
Demonstrating that photosynthesis can result in plagues, if
the balance of the planet is upset too much by hominids who
think they are smarter than nature.
ABUNDANCE - Seaweed as a bed on the Australian coast.