How Do Plants Create Oxygen?
Plants have an incredible superpower; they can convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen. But you might wonder how they do it. In this article, we’ll delve into the amazing process of photosynthesis, explore the role of chlorophyll, and how helpful plants are in the carbon cycle.
The Process of Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis comes from two words, ‘photo’ meaning ''light'' and ‘synthesis’ meaning "to make". It’s the biological process that allows plants to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen. This process has two stages:
- Light-dependent reactions: This is where chlorophyll, the pigment in leaves that is responsible for their green colour, captures energy from sunlight to split water and release oxygen
- Light-independent reactions: Which utilise this energy to convert carbon dioxide into glucose that the plant can use to grow
The process of photosynthesis produces essential energy-rich molecules for plant growth as well as releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Photosynthesis also plays a vital role in the carbon cycle.
Photosynthesis vs Cellular Respiration
Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are two interconnected processes that occur in plants. While photosynthesis produces glucose and oxygen, cellular respiration breaks down glucose to release energy that fuels plant activities. They’re basically opposite sides of the same coin working together to maintain a plant’s energy balance.
How Gases Move in Plants
Plants have specialised structures called stomata. These are tiny openings usually found on the underside of leaves. The stomata allow for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen between the plant and its environment. Carbon dioxide enters through the stomata, while oxygen produced during photosynthesis exits the plant through the same openings.
Do Plants Produce Oxygen at Night?
Contrary to popular belief, most plants actually don’t release oxygen at night! Instead, they go through cellular respiration, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide.
However, there are a few exceptions, such as the snake plant and aloe vera plant that release oxygen throughout the night. These are great plants to have in the bedroom as they help maintain a balanced oxygen supply in their environment and continue to remove harmful chemicals from the air 24 hours a day.
The Role of Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is the pigment responsible for the green colour of plants, and it plays an important role in photosynthesis. It captures light energy from the sun and starts the process of converting it into chemical energy. Apart from its crucial role in photosynthesis, chlorophyll also plays a part in the production of other essential plant compounds, such as amino acids, proteins, and certain vitamins. It is a complex molecule that sustains plant life in many ways.
Different plants have adapted over time to thrive in different light conditions, some need a lot of light to photosynthesis efficiently and produce enough glucose for their needs, whereas some have adapted to manage on lower levels of light. Plants that can manage in lower light levels will typically grow more slowly and use their energy to create dark or evergreen foliage and white flowers rather than fast growing, colourful or short-lived blooms. If a plant is struggling to produce new growth, moving it to a sunnier position can help the plant capture more energy and convert this into glucose and the other building blocks needed for more growth.
Using Plants to Combat Climate Change
Plants don’t just produce oxygen; they also act as nature’s air purifiers. Having houseplants can help clean the air by filtering out harmful pollutants and releasing oxygen. Planting trees and living walls in cities can help filter out traffic emissions and improve the air quality in our urban environments.
Through a process called carbon sequestration, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as carbon within their tissues. Planting trees and vegetation, particularly forests, drastically increases carbon sequestration, making them valuable carbon sinks.
Plants also promote soil health, water conservation, and biodiversity. They enrich soils with organic matter, helping to store carbon. By planting more trees, supporting reforestation efforts, and incorporating plants into our living spaces, we can make a positive impact on climate change.
The Best Carbon Absorbing Plants
There are some great plants that you can include in your home that are great for absorbing carbon dioxide and contributing to better air quality in your home.
- Bamboo Palm
The bamboo palm plant not only adds aesthetic appeal to indoor spaces, but they also effectively absorb carbon dioxide. The bamboo palm plant is known for its ability to remove toxins like formaldehyde and xylene from the air, making it a great choice for improving indoor air quality while contributing to carbon absorption.
Dracaena plants are renowned for their air-purifying properties and carbon sequestration abilities. These plants have broad leaves that easily absorb carbon dioxide from the air and they can also filter out various indoor air pollutants like benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde which creates a healthier living environment.
- Snake Plant
The snake plant is a low-maintenance plant that adds a touch of elegance to any space whilst contributing to carbon sequestration. It has unique vertical leaves that efficiently absorb carbon dioxide during the day and release oxygen at night. It’s also effective at filtering out toxins like formaldehyde and benzene, making it an excellent choice for improving indoor air quality.
- Rubber Plant
The rubber plant is a popular indoor plant with large, glossy leaves that effectively absorb carbon dioxide. This plant has a high transpiration rate, meaning it releases a large amount of water vapour into the air which enhances its carbon sequestration qualities.
Do you have a question or wish to find out more? Then simply get in touch with us today and a member of our very knowledgeable team will be on hand to help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can indoor plants really help combat climate change?
While individual plants might only have a small impact, collectively, they contribute to carbon sequestration and play a role in climate change. Planting and caring for indoor plants, along with supporting larger-scale reforestation efforts, can make a significant difference!
Can I have carbon-absorbing plants in low-light environments?
Yes! There are many plant species, such as snake plants and pothos, that can thrive in low-light conditions. While they may absorb carbon dioxide at a slightly slower rate compared to plants in optimal light, they can still contribute to carbon sequestration and improve indoor air quality.
Can I plant carbon-absorbing plants outdoors to maximize their impact?
Absolutely! Planting carbon-absorbing plants outdoors, especially in areas where they can grow to their full potential, is highly beneficial.