pp 1-29 | Cite as

Functional Diversity of Photosynthesis, Plant-Species Diversity, and Habitat Diversity

  • Ulrich LüttgeEmail author
Part of the Progress in Botany book series


Photosynthesis is the basis of productivity. With that it is prerequisite of growth, which is the driver of competition between plants and therefore of fitness for occupying space. Modes of photosynthesis are C3 , C4, and C2 photosynthesis and crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), each with plasticity of modifications conveying flexibility and considerable functional diversity. At the level of macrohabitats, i.e., ecosystems and biomes, vegetation with dominant C3 and C4 photosynthesis, respectively, or prominent contribution of CAM, can be distinguished. At finer scaling levels, this becomes more difficult. At the community level, C4 and CAM vegetation as well as C3 vegetation, where CAM and C4 species are conspicuously immersed, can be observed. At the microhabitat level species with different modes of photosynthesis often are found to occur sympatrically side by side even with very similar life-forms and appear to be equally successful in adapting or acclimatizing to environmental conditions. They get involved in interactions of competition and facilitation. Diversity of modes of photosynthesis and their plasticity create various options, but at the level of microhabitats, ecophysiological performance with respect to photosynthesis often does not explain distinct distributions of plant species. Plasticity and diversity imply complexity. “Diversity creates diversity.” Understanding biodiversity means understanding complexity. The diversity of arrivals of plants carrying a diversity of functional traits of photosynthesis at sites governed by chance and their establishment at dynamically variable conditions appears best leading us to an understanding of why so often we find that ecophysiological performance per se is insufficient for explaining local distribution of plants and habitat occupation.



My warmest thanks I express to Erwin Beck, Manfred Kluge, Hans Pretzsch, and Fabio Rubio Scarano for critically reading the manuscript and valuable suggestions.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTechnical University of DarmstadtDarmstadtGermany

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