Coupled carbon and water fluxes in CAM photosynthesis: modeling quantification of water use efficiency and productivity

Mark S. Bartlett, Giulia Vico, Amilcare Michele M. Porporato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Due to their high water use efficiency, Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) plants are of environmental and economic importance in the arid and semiarid regions of the world. Moreover, many CAM plants (e.g., Agave tequilana) have attractive qualities for biofuel production such as a relatively low lignin content and high amount of soluble carbohydrates. However, the current estimates of CAM productivity are based on empirical stress indices that create large uncertainties. As a first step towards a more accurate quantification of CAM productivity, this paper introduces a new model that couples both soil and atmosphere conditions to CAM photosynthesis.

Methods: The new CAM model is based upon well established C3 photosynthesis models coupled to a nonlinear circadian rhythm oscillator for the control of the photosynthesis carbon fluxes. The leaf-level dynamics are coupled to a simple, yet realistic description of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum, including a plant water capacitance module.

Results: The resulting model reproduces the four phases of CAM photosynthes is and the evolution of their dynamics during a soil moisture drydown, as a function of soil type, plant features, and climatic conditions.

Conclusion: The results help quantify the impact of soil water availability on CAM carbon assimilation and transpiration flux.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-138
Number of pages28
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


  • Carbon assimilation
  • Circadian rhythm oscillator
  • Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM)
  • Plant water capacitance
  • Soil moisture
  • Water stress


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