, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 3–15 | Cite as

Contribution of stem CO2 fixation to whole-plant carbon balance in nonsucculent species



In many plant species that remain leafless part of the year, CO2 fixation occurring in green stems represents an important carbon gain. Traditionally, a distinction has been made between stem photosynthesis and corticular photosynthesis. All stem photosynthesis is, sensu stricto, cortical, since it is carried out largely by the stem cortex. We proposed the following nomenclature: stem net photosynthesis (SNP), which includes net CO2 fixation by stems with stomata in the epidermis and net corticular CO2 fixation in suberized stems, and stem recycling photosynthesis (SRP), which defines CO2 ling in suberized stems. The proposed terms should reflect differences in anatomical and physiological traits. SNP takes place in the chlorenchyma below the epidermis with stomata, where the net CO2 uptake occurs, and it resembles leaf photosynthesis in many characteristics. SRP is found in species where the chlorenchyma is beneath a well-developed stomata-free periderm and where reassimilation of internally respired CO2 occurs. SNP is common in plants from desert ecosystems, rates reaching up to 60% of the leaf photosynthetic rate. SRP has been demonstrated in trees from temperate forests and it offsets partially a carbon loss by respiration of stem nonphotosynthetic tissues. Reassimilation can vary between 7 and 123% of respired CO2, the latter figure implying net CO2 uptake from the atmosphere. Both types of stem photosynthesis contribute positively to the carbon economy of the species, in which they occur; they are advantageous to the plant because they allow the maintenance of physiological activity during stress, an increase of integrated water use efficiency, and they provide the carbon source used in the production of new organs.

Additional key words

carbon balance CO2 reassimilation green stem stem net photosynthesis stem photosynthesis stem recycling photosynthesis 



crassulacean acid metabolism


carboxylation efficiency




intercellular CO2 concentration


maximum quantum yield of PSII


stomatal conductance


photosynthetic rate


leaf net P N


stem recycling P N


stem net P N




phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase


photosynthetic photon flux density


dark-respiration rate


light-respiration rate






stem net photosynthesis


stem recycling photosynthesis


vapor pressure deficit


water-use efficiency


isotopic carbon composition


effective quantum yield of PSII


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Botánica Tropical, Instituto de Biología ExperimentalUniversidad Central de VenezuelaCaracasVenezuela

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