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Keywords:

  • C3 photosynthesis;
  • C4 photosynthesis;
  • ecophysiology;
  • Amaranths;
  • Euphorbia;
  • photosynthetic adaptation

Abstract. In this review we relate the physiological significance of C4 photosynthesis to plant performance in nature. We begin with an examination of the physiological consequences of the C4 pathway on photosynthesis, then discuss the ecophysiological performance of C4 plants in contrasting environments. We then compare the performance of C3 and C4 plants when they occur together in similar habitats, and finally discuss the distribution of C4 photosynthesis with respect to the physical environment, phylogeny, and life form.