In the C3 pathway: enter image description here 1 H2O molecule is required for the fixation of 1 CO2 molecule.

In the C4 pathway: enter image description here The only H2O molecule used is in the calvin cycle, so 1 H2O molecule required for fixation of 1 CO2 again.

So, how is C4 pathway more water efficient? I tried looking up more detailed diagrams, but I couldn't find one which gave any different (H2O consumed) to (CO2 fixed) ratio. Any help is appreciated.


1 Answer 1


Actually, water is used in the light-dependent portion of photosynthesis, not the Calvin cycle.

The added water efficiency doesn't actually relate to water's involvement in chemical processes of photosynthesis at all. Water is instead lost incidentally through stomata when they're opened to allow CO2 into the leaves (see here for explanation). This CO2 IS required for the light-independent Calvin cycle.

Both C4 and CAM plants preserve water by decoupling (in space or time) C-fixation from the rest of the Calvin cycle (see here). They instead "store" carbon in 4-carbon molecules to use as a C source in the absence of CO2 (i.e., when stomata are closed). In doing so, they can perform the Calvin cycle without receiving more CO2. As a result, C4 and CAM plants can photosynthesize without having their stomata open all the time (or during the heat of days for CAM plants). The final result: less water lost through evaporation out of the stomata


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .