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We used Arabidopsis thaliana mutants to examine how a photosynthetic regulatory process, the qE-type or ΔpH-dependent nonphotochemical quenching, hereafter named feedback de-excitation, influences plant fitness in different light environments. We show that the feedback de-excitation is important for plant fitness in the field and in fluctuating light in a controlled environment but that it does not affect plant performance under constant light conditions. Our findings demonstrate that the feedback de-excitation confers a strong fitness advantage under field conditions and suggest that this advantage is due to the increase in plant tolerance to variation in light intensity rather than tolerance to high-intensity light itself.
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