High Photosynthetic Capacity of a Winter Annual in Death Valley

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Science  15 Oct 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4262, pp. 322-324
DOI: 10.1126/science.194.4262.322


Camissonia claviformis, a winter annual of Death Valley, California, that fixes carbon dioxide by the C3 mechanism, has an in situ photosynthetic rate at midday in spring of nearly 6 nanomoles of carbon dioxide per square centimeter per second—an exceptionally high rate. Camissonia fixes absorbed noon sunlight in the 400- to 700-nanometer region into chemical energy with an efficiency of 8.5 percent, which is 80 percent of that theoretically possible for intact leaves. This performance is primarily due to an unusual capacity to utilize high irradiances. Factors associated with this include a high stomatal conductance to carbon dioxide and high levels of soluble protein and ribulose-1,5-diphosphate carboxylase.