Lessons from Nature: A Personal Perspective

  • William W. AdamsIIIEmail author
  • Barbara Demmig-Adams
Part of the Advances in Photosynthesis and Respiration book series (AIPH, volume 40)


This chapter highlights selected contributions to photosynthesis research made from an evolutionary and ecological perspective and, specifically, to the characterization of zeaxanthin-associated thermal energy dissipation. First, contributions of comparative ecophysiology to the discovery of different CO2 fixation pathways are examined, followed by a summary of the historical developments leading to documentation of the relationship between zeaxanthin and photoprotective energy dissipation. Evergreen species exhibit exceptionally strong non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence (NPQ) and very high levels of zeaxanthin formation. This enabled an unveiling of the correlation between zeaxanthin versus NPQ and/or photosystem II quantum efficiency (as inferred from the ratio of variable to maximal fluorescence, Fv/Fm), even prior to development of technology currently used in the assessment of these features. Results from characterization of the wide variety of different manifestations (with respect to extent and/or kinetics) of the conversion of xanthophylls, and changes in NPQ and/or Fv/Fm in different plant species and diverse environments are placed in an evolutionary and ecological context. Lastly, themes emerging from the international research community on NPQ and photoprotective thermal dissipation are summarized, and suggestions presented for how utilization of plants genetically adapted and acclimated to high levels of light stress may aid in addressing open questions.


Energy Dissipation Chlorophyll Fluorescence Crassulacean Acid Metabolism Xanthophyll Cycle Thermal Dissipation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Crassulacean acid metabolism






Early light inducible protein

Fm, Fm

Maximal chlorophyll fluorescence in the dark- and light-adapted state, respectively

Fo, Fo

Minimal chlorophyll fluorescence in the dark- and light-adapted state, respectively

Fv, Fv

Variable chlorophyll fluorescence in the dark- (Fm – Fo) and light-adapted (Fm′ – Fo′) state, respectively

Fv/Fm, Fv′/Fm

Interpreted to be intrinsic efficiency (or quantum yield) of photosystem II in the dark and light-adapted state, respectively


3-hydroxy-echinenone as a xanthophyll bound to the orange carotenoid protein of cyanobacteria


High light-inducible protein


High-pressure liquid chromatography


Light-harvesting complex


Light-harvesting complex of photosystem II


Light-harvesting complex stress-related


Non-photochemical quenching of chlorophyll fluorescence


Orange carotenoid protein of cyanobacteria


Pulse-amplitude-modulated (chlorophyll fluorometry)


Photosystem II

VAZ cycle

The xanthophyll cycle involving the carotenoids violaxanthin (V) antheraxanthin (A), and zeaxanthin (Z)



We wish to thank our mentors, Olle Björkman and C. Barry Osmond, and the many colleagues and students who have contributed to the development of our work over three decades. We are grateful to J. I. García-Plazaola and Barry A. Logan for their thorough evaluation and suggested changes that have improved the chapter. We also acknowledge funding from various sources for three decades, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Australian National University, the Universität Würzburg, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the National Science Foundation (including our current award, DEB-1022236), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, and a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship to W.W.A.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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