can a plant survive without oxygen

If plants produce oxygen by photosynthesis, can a plant survive without oxygen? If you’re curious, keep reading. 

This article will answer your question and everything you need to know about the interaction between plants and oxygen. 

Plants cannot survive in the absence of oxygen.

It is required to distribute minerals and nutrients throughout the plant, collect energy from sunlight in photosynthesis, and convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into food such as carbohydrates, glucose, and cellulose.

How Do Plants Breathe?

how do plants breathe

Plants breathe in, convert gasses, and expel them as either oxygen (O2) or carbon dioxide (CO2) (CO2).

Plants’ respiration uses stomata and cells. They also utilize oxygen in various ways.

Plants are all around us and are so common that we take them for granted. Many people, however, have misunderstandings about how plants breathe.

Let us define two terms:

The Transpiration Process

When roots take water from the soil, water transfers nutrients to stems and leaves, and pores (stomata) of leaves spread water vapor and oxygen into the air; this is referred to as transpiration.

respiration of plants

The Respiration Process

Respiration is breathing or utilizing oxygen to get energy from meals. This article will discuss the second meaning.

Aerobic (using oxygen to get energy from food) and anaerobic respiration are the two forms of respiration (getting energy from food without using oxygen).

Note: Plants get oxygen from the soil's water, but when that is insufficient, their leaves collect oxygen from the air.

Can A Plant Survive Without Oxygen?

plant survive without oxygen

Plants cannot survive in the absence of oxygen.

They need oxygen for: Respiration, Transpiration, Aerial Absorption, and Photosynthesis Process

Let’s take a look at each of these processes and how they rely on oxygen to function:

1. The Respiration 

Plants’ cellular respiration needs oxygen to generate energy from the sugar generated during photosynthesis.

Plants absorb oxygen from the air through stomata and lenticels found in the leaves and stems. 

This oxygen is used for aerobic respiration in the cell’s mitochondria. The glucose molecule is broken down into water and carbon dioxide during aerobic respiration. 

Carbon dioxide created during respiration is expelled into the atmosphere through stomata and lenticels.

In general, two forms of respiration occur in plants:

  • Photorespiration is aerobic respiration that occurs in the presence of light.
  • Dark respiration – This kind of aerobic respiration may occur in both the presence and absence of light.
respiration types

For example, photorespiration occurs when leaves are exposed to sunlight during the day, while dark respiration occurs when leaves are exposed to sunlight at night.

Note: Plants need more oxygen than they generate during growth spurts. Stunted development and irregular root structures come from a lack of oxygen.

How Do Plants Acquire Enough Oxygen for Respiration?

We also know that sunlight is used by green plants to transform water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into energy-rich molecules like glucose and to produce oxygen.

Photosynthesis is the name given to this process. 

Some of the oxygen created during photosynthesis is absorbed by the cells for respiration, while the remainder is released into the environment through stomatal pores.

Photosynthesis can only occur and create oxygen in the presence of sunshine.

As a result, in the absence of sunshine or at night, plants use oxygen from their surroundings to accomplish aerobic respiration.

Note: Plants breathe both via transpiration and through respiration. These mechanisms are distinct, yet both rely on oxygen. Plants, in other words, cannot breathe without oxygen.

2. The Photosynthesis Process

photosynthesis diagram

There are other portions of plants that do not create oxygen via photosynthesis and must rely on the surrounding air for oxygen to maintain their cellular respiration process. 

For example, the cells in the roots possess chloroplasts but cannot manufacture their own oxygen due to a lack of sunlight exposure. 

As a result, they rely on oxygen from the soil’s air. The amount of oxygen required by plants varies.

As a result, certain plants need more permeable soil to thrive.

Roots may readily take oxygen from porous soil and create energy via aerobic respiration. 

Note: Plants that live in wet places, such as mangroves, have adapted and developed to utilize less oxygen owing to the limited availability of oxygen in the water.

There are Two Kinds of Photosynthesis

As learned above, photosynthesis is the process through which light, carbon dioxide, and water are transformed into glucose and oxygen.

Anoxygenic and oxygenic photosynthesis are the two major kinds of photosynthesis. 

plant cells

Oxygenic Photosynthesis

The most frequent kind of photosynthesis observed in green plants is oxygenic photosynthesis. 

During this process, electrons are carried from the cells of the roots to carbon dioxide to form carbohydrates using the combination of sunshine and water.

This occurs in a variety of green plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. 

Anoxygenic photosynthesis

Anoxygenic photosynthesis is uncommon and does not create oxygen, instead relying on a separate supply of electrons.

This photosynthetic pathway is seen in green sulfur bacteria and phototrophic purple bacteria.

photosynthetic sulfur bacteria

Plant cells include chloroplasts, which perform photosynthesis with the pigment chlorophyll. Light energy is converted into chemical energy by this pigment.

During this process, the absorbed water is divided, releasing oxygen into the air.

Photosynthesis Occurs in Several Stages

The Calvin cycle is the next key step after converting energy. This cycle has three photosynthetic pathways: C3, C4, and CAM.

They are both focused on manufacturing glucose or energy by utilizing carbon dioxide from the air. 

Most plants, including wheat, rice, and cotton, utilize the C3 pathway, which results in three-compound carbon.

The C4 route is more suitable for plants in areas where the air is hot or dry to reduce photorespiration. 

Finally, certain plants need CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) photosynthesis in dry and highly hot climates. Cacti and pineapple are two examples. 

stages of photosynthesis

This allows the plants to absorb carbon dioxide throughout the night to minimize water loss as much as possible.

Life on Earth cannot exist without oxygen. As a result, all creatures use plants to create oxygen just as much as we do.

Note: No plant can survive in the absence of oxygen. In reality, all green plants, algae, moss, and almost all life on the planet need oxygen.

What Happens When Plants Don’t Get Enough Oxygen?

Do plants need oxygen to survive? Plants are aerobic creatures that need oxygen to Survive.

When there is no oxygen present in plants, two processes take place in plants: Hypoxia and Anoxia

Hypoxia occurs when the oxygen level in the environment inhibits aerobic respiration (typically between 1% and 5%), while anoxia occurs when the oxygen level is nonexistent.

hypoxia in plants

There are two types of hypoxia process: 

The Acute Hypoxia

The term acute hypoxia refers to a temporary decrease in oxygen availability in plants, which may be caused by unfavorable climatic circumstances such as flooding events or by exceptional, brief spikes in oxygen use in plant tissue. 

Acute hypoxia is seen as stressful by the plants.

The Chronic Hypoxia

Chronic hypoxia is a non-stressful state in which the oxygen level is kept low in a specific subset of cells rather than the whole plant.

Chronic hypoxia, in other words, may be a physiological state in particular plant tissues.

How Do Plants Survive With a Deficiency of Oxygen?

plant survive oxygen deficiency

Do plants need oxygen to live? When there is inadequate oxygen delivery in plants, most cellular activities are disrupted, which may lead to death. 

Cells detect oxygen levels and respond to inadequate oxygen by adopting survival strategies, ranging from gene regulation to morphological adaptive responses to maintain the amount of oxygen under control. 

Plants use the following ways to survive when oxygen levels are low:

1. They Adapt at the Hypoxia Cellular Level

Plants modify their metabolism when they detect a lack of oxygen, similarly accomplished by gene expression regulation.

During a hypoxic event in Arabidopsis, anaerobic core hypoxia genes are activated in all plant organs.

Aerobic species have evolved a wide range of hypoxia-adaptive responses at the cellular, tissue, and organism levels. 

When the oxygen supply is enough, the mitochondria create enough ATP to survive; however, when the oxygen supply is insufficient, alcoholic fermentation replaces mitochondrial respiration.

2. They Produce ATP

plants produce atp

ATP is the primary molecule responsible for energy storage and transmission in cells

The goal of fermentative metabolism is to produce ATP through the glycolytic route by recycling NAD+ via the activity of two important enzymes, pyruvate decarboxylase (PDC) and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH).

These two enzymes are anaerobic polypeptides (ANPs), which are triggered and generated by hypoxia.

These are generated by ERF-VIIs, which trigger transcription of the Hypoxia-Responsive Genes (HRG) that encode the ANPs.

3. They Produce a Wide Range of Minerals

Proteins involved in aerenchyma production, cytoplasmic pH, and glucose metabolism are further examples of ANPs. 

Carbohydrate breakdown by glycolysis in conjunction with the fermentative route produces two moles of ATP rather than the 36 typically generated during aerobic respiration.

minerals in plants

Despite its limitations, ATP generation through fermentation is critical for hypoxia tolerance. 

Furthermore, mutants deficient in alcoholic fermentation are hypoxia intolerant, indicating that this pathway plays a crucial role in hypoxia tolerance.

Glycolysis linked to fermentation under limited oxygen availability needs an appropriate glucose supply to be effective at ATP synthesis.

Note: In this context, cereals and Arabidopsis have established the function of starch as a source of sugars to be utilized during prolonged hypoxia. 

Only rice can germinate under anoxia owing to its capacity to utilize the starchy reserves contained in the caryopses, which is a result of the effective induction of -amylases even in the absence of oxygen.

Final Verdict

Can a plant survive without oxygen?

Plants produce their carbohydrates when they photosynthesize, and their cells use those same carbohydrates during respiration.

For plants, oxygen is essential because it improves the efficiency of the respiration process (known as aerobic respiration). 

Plant cells are constantly respiring. Plants produce oxygen when their leaves are illuminated. When plants are deprived of light, they respire more than they photosynthesize, consuming more oxygen than they produce. 

Roots, seeds, and other plant parts that do not photosynthesize require oxygen. This is one of the reasons why plant roots can “drown” in wet soil. 

A growing plant still produces more oxygen than it consumes. As a result, plant life depends on oxygen to survive.

Thanks for reading!