Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 121, Issue 2–3, pp 111–124 | Cite as

Energy costs of carbon dioxide concentrating mechanisms in aquatic organisms

  • John A. RavenEmail author
  • John Beardall
  • Mario Giordano


Minimum energy (as photon) costs are predicted for core reactions of photosynthesis, for photorespiratory metabolism in algae lacking CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) and for various types of CCMs; in algae, with CCMs; allowance was made for leakage of CO2 from the internal pool. These predicted values are just compatible with the minimum measured photon costs of photosynthesis in microalgae and macroalgae lacking or expressing CCMs. More energy-expensive photorespiration, for example for organisms using Rubiscos with lower CO2–O2 selectivity coefficients, would be less readily accommodated within the lowest measured photon costs of photosynthesis by algae lacking CCMs. The same applies to the cases of CCMs with higher energy costs of active transport of protons or inorganic carbon species, or greater allowance for significant leakage from the accumulated intracellular pool of CO2. High energetic efficiency can involve a higher concentration of catalyst to achieve a given rate of reaction, adding to the resource costs of growth. There are no obvious mechanistic interpretations of the occurrence of CCMs algae adapted to low light and low temperatures using the rationales adopted for the occurrence of C4 photosynthesis in terrestrial flowering plants. There is an exception for cyanobacteria with low-selectivity Form IA or IB Rubiscos, and those dinoflagellates with low-selectivity Form II Rubiscos, for which very few natural environments have high enough CO2:O2 ratios to allow photosynthesis in the absence of CCMs.


Carbon dioxide concentrating mechanisms Environmental change Nutrient use efficiency Photosynthetically active radiation 



JAR acknowledges helpful discussions with Murray Badger, George Briggs, Paul Falkowski, Richard Geider, Aaron Kaplan, Janet Kübler, Enid MacRobbie, Bruce Osborne, Dean Price. Andrew Smith and Alan Walker. Comments from two anonymous reviewers have been very useful in revising the manuscript. The University of Dundee is a registered Scottish Charity, No 015096,.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Raven
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John Beardall
    • 3
  • Mario Giordano
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Plant ScienceUniversity of Dundee at the James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  2. 2.Functional Plant Biology and Climate Change ClusterUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Marine ScienceUniversità Politecnica Delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  5. 5.Institute on MicrobiologyASCR, AlgatechTrebonCzech Republic

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