What Is Photosynthesis?

Photosynthesis is not something that just happens in a few seconds and is complete. It goes on throughout the day and even into the night hours. This is an ongoing process in which plants use sunlight or certain artificial light, and convert the energy into a sugar known as glucose. According to encyclopedia entries the plants have chlorophyll that is an essential part of the process.

A process represented by a complex chemical equation provides nourishment that all animals need when they consume plants for food. In its simplest terms, photosynthesis occurs when water and carbon dioxide transform into glucose and the plant releases oxygen.

Photosynthesis is, in a way, the beginning of a long process of energy conservation. When animals eat plant material the energy from the plant is transformed in the animal’s body and becomes muscle and other body material. Animals that eat meat must have complex digestive systems that convert this material into energy.

Animals, including human beings, survive because of a process that is the opposite of photosynthesis. When animals breathe they are helping transform energy as well, through respiration. But this process is more complicated than just breathing. The energy that began as vegetable sugar provides the energy animals need, as energy is transformed within animal cells. Animals exhale carbon dioxide that is then used by the plants again. A balance or circle is completed through photosynthesis and respiration.

Most plants collect the energy from sunlight through their leaves. The cells of these leaves and cells in some other plant parts are perfectly formed for the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil enter the porous cell walls. These same cells and the leaf surface allow oxygen to return to the air to be used by other forms of life.

Leaves seem to be very flat and simple, but they actually have several layers. Each of these contributes to photosynthesis in a unique way.

The crucial “gateway” for carbon dioxide and oxygen (gases) is the stomata. These gases enter and leave the plant as needed through the stomata. Plants do lose moisture when gases move into and out of the leaves. Moist air and particularly moist soil are crucial to maintaining a strong photosynthesis process.

This is why healthy plant life is so important for human beings and other animals. It’s also why it is important that soil and air are not polluted to the point that plants cannot remain healthy. Studies have shown that large stands of trees and/or agricultural plants put much-needed oxygen into the atmosphere. Forests and large groups of trees may return enough oxygen to the air to support the life of hundreds of animals. One of the consequences of pollution is that many of the damaging chemicals in polluted air and water travel into and through the plants during the process of photosynthesis. Not only can pollution damage the plants in the early stage of the process but the health of animals and plants further along are also negatively affected.

Written by Lucas Beaumont

Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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