Carbon investments

  • Christian Körner


It is important, though trivial, that low temperatures affect different life processes in different ways. The life process most limited will most strongly influence growth and development. In the last century, when researchers watched submerged aquatic leaves for air bubbles in order to check whether the plant was photosynthesizing, a handful of ice added to such a water bath had illuminated the fundamental dilemma between supply and demand of carbon. By using these methods, Kraus (1869, p. 523) studied the effect of light and temperature on starch and sugar formation in plants in Würzburg and hit the point remarkably well:

“The low temperature limit of photosynthesis appears to be lower than that in any other plant process. Such a design may not only be useful, but appears essential. This assures that secondary processes such as cell division, cell enlargement, respiration etc. never fall short of substrate. It would be useless and respire at 2oC but were unable to produce the material required for these processes” (free translation from the more baroque German of those days).


Fine Root Specific Leaf Area Dwarf Shrub Specific Root Length Alpine Plant 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Körner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of BotanyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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