AQA GCSE Biology

Revision Notes

4.1.2 Rate of Photosynthesis

Factors that Affect Photosynthesis

  • In order to photosynthesise a plant needs light, water and carbon dioxide
  • The availability of light and carbon dioxide can affect how much and how quickly (the rate) photosynthesis occurs
    • Although water is necessary for photosynthesis, it is not considered a limiting factor as the amount needed is relatively small compared to the amount of water transpired from a plant so there is hardly ever a situation where there is not enough water for photosynthesis
  • Other environmental factors such as temperature and the amount of chlorophyll in the chloroplasts can also affect the rate of photosynthesis

Temperature

  • The temperature of the environment affects how much kinetic energy all particles have – so temperature affects the speed at which carbon dioxide and water move through a plant
  • The lower the temperature, the less kinetic energy particles have, resulting in fewer successful collisions occurring over a period of time
  • Increasing temperature increases the kinetic energy of particles, increasing the likelihood of collisions between reactants and enzymes which results in the formation of products
  • At higher temperatures, however, enzymes that control the processes of photosynthesis can be denatured (where the active site changes shape and is no longer complementary to its substrate) – this reduces the overall rate

The effect of temperature on the rate of photosynthesis, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Graph showing the effect of temperature on the rate of photosynthesis

Light

  • The intensity of the light available to the plant will depend on the amount of energy that it has to carry out photosynthesis
  • The more light a plant receives, the faster the rate of photosynthesis
  • This trend will continue until some other factor required for photosynthesis prevents the rate from increasing further because it is now in short supply

 

The effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

Graph showing the effect of light intensity on the rate of photosynthesis

At low light intensities, increasing the intensity will initially increase the rate of photosynthesis. At a certain point, increasing the light intensity stops increasing the rate. The rate becomes constant regardless of how much light intensity increases as something else is limiting the rate.

Carbon dioxide concentration

  • Carbon dioxide is one of the raw materials required for photosynthesis
  • This means the more carbon dioxide that is present, the faster the reaction can occur
  • This trend will continue until some other factor required for photosynthesis prevents the rate from increasing further because it is now in short supply

 

The effect of carbon dioxide concentration on the rate of photosynthesis, IGCSE & GCSE Biology revision notes

A graph showing the effect of the concentration of carbon dioxide on the rate of photosynthesis

Chlorophyll

  • The number of chloroplasts (as they contain the pigment chlorophyll which absorbs light energy for photosynthesis) will affect the rate of photosynthesis
  • The more chloroplasts a plant has, the faster the rate of photosynthesis
  • The amount of chlorophyll can be affected by:
    • diseases (such as tobacco mosaic virus)
    • lack of nutrients (such as magnesium)
    • loss of leaves (fewer leaves means fewer chloroplasts)

 

 

Exam Tip

Make sure you know that the effect of low temperature is a reduced rate of collisions occurring, and the effect of high temperatures is that enzymes denature.

Author: Jenna

Jenna studied at Cardiff University before training to become a science teacher at the University of Bath specialising in Biology (although she loves teaching all three sciences at GCSE level!). Teaching is her passion, and with 10 years experience teaching across a wide range of specifications – from GCSE and A Level Biology in the UK to IGCSE and IB Biology internationally – she knows what is required to pass those Biology exams.
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