, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 23–34 | Cite as

Ecological evidence concerning the adaptive significance of the C4 dicarboxylic acid pathway of photosynthesis

  • L. H. Doliner
  • P. A. Jolliffe


Ecological data were analyzed to determine the environmental conditions associated with the occurrence of plants possessing C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways. Non-parametric analysis of variance, multiple regression analysis and discriminant analysis techniques were applied to information derived from separate studies on plant species in California and central Europe. All the analyses revealed significant differences in ecology between the C3 and C4 groups. The occurrence of C4 species was greater where summer or winter temperatures were relatively high and moisture availability relatively low. Using discriminant analysis, more than 80% of the species considered were classified into the correct photosynthetic category on the basis of their distribution with respect to temperature. No significant differences between the C3 and C4 groups were found for other environmental factors, including light, soil nitrogen, soil salinity and continentality of climate. These results support the suggestion from previous physiological studies that C4 species may possess competitive advantages under conditions of high temperature and intermittent water stress. The C4 species were relatively restricted in the range of environmental conditions where they occurred, and as a group C4 species may be ecologically more specialized than C3 species.


Photosynthesis Discriminant Analysis Soil Salinity Dicarboxylic Acid Soil Nitrogen 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. H. Doliner
    • 1
  • P. A. Jolliffe
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BotanyThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Plant ScienceThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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