Can Plants Survive Without Oxygen?

No, plants cannot survive without oxygen. Similar to animals including humans, plants also require oxygen for cellular respiration.  

Why do plants require oxygen?

The cellular respiration in plants requires oxygen to produce energy from sugar produced during photosynthesis. In this process, plants intake oxygen from the air through stomata and lenticels present in the leaves and stem respectively. This oxygen is used for aerobic respiration in the mitochondria of the cell. In aerobic respiration, the glucose molecule breaks down into water and carbon dioxide.

C6H12O+ 6O2 → 6CO+ 6H2O + 32 ATP (energy)

The carbon dioxide produced during respiration is released to the environment through stomata and lenticels.

Respiration in Plants

In general, two types of respiration take place in the plant:

Photorespiration – Aerobic respiration that takes place in the presence of light.

Dark respiration – This aerobic respiration can take place both in the presence and absence of light.

For example, the respiration process that takes place in leaves exposed to sunlight during daytime is photorespiration while respiration through leaves during the night time is dark respiration.

How do plants get oxygen for respiration?

We also know that green plants use sunlight to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into energy-rich compounds such as glucose and generates oxygen. This process is known as photosynthesis. Some of the oxygen produced during photosynthesis is also consumed by the cells for respiration and the excess amount of oxygen is liberated to the environment through openings of stomata.

Photosynthesis
Stomata in leaves

Photosynthesis can only occur and produce oxygen in the presence of sunlight. Therefore, during the absence of sunlight or in the night time, plants take oxygen from the surrounding environment to perform aerobic respiration.

There are also some parts in plants where oxygen is not produced using photosynthesis and therefore they depend on surrounding air for oxygen to continue their cellular respiration process. For example, the cells present in the roots contain chloroplasts but still they cannot produce their own oxygen due to lack of exposure to sunlight. Hence, they depend on oxygen from air present in the soil. The oxygen requirement varies with different plants. That’s why some plants require more porous soil to survive. Porous soil allows roots to extract oxygen easily and perform aerobic respiration to produce energy. Plants such as mangroves living in wet areas have adapted and evolved to consume less oxygen due to the low availability of oxygen in the water.

Professor Atom

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Professor Atom is a science enthusiast and alumni of IIT Bombay. According to him, every question can be solved with curiosity and mind mapping. ( Curiosity = Asking Questions = Learning )

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