How do some plants switch photosynthesis modes?

A plant glows under fuchsia light in a chamber attached to countless cables and tubes. A line on a computer screen shows that the little tree, which STRI plant physiologist Klaus Winter has starved of water, has switched modes of photosynthesis. Instead of absorbing CO2 during the day, the Clusia pratensis now fixes carbon at night, allowing it to cut its water use by 80 percent.

"The most interesting plants are the ones that switch photosynthetic modes," says Winter, who has run variations of this stress-response experiment countless times in his career and published dozens of papers describing his findings. With next-generation genetic experimentation, Winter will take the science of photosynthesis to new levels of understanding that may help scientists to understand how plants adjust to climate change.

See scientist profile

Learn More

Asner Wright Hall Muller Winter Potvin
Turner Detto Hubell Rubinoff Davies