Photosynthetically active radiation

Photosynthetically active radiation

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Photosynthetically active radiation, often abbreviated PAR, designates the spectral range (wave band) of solar radiation from 400 to 700 nanometers that photosynthetic organisms are able to use in the process of photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

. This spectral region corresponds more or less with the range of light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 visible to the human eye. Photons at shorter wavelengths tend to be so energetic that they can be damaging to cells and tissues, but are mostly filtered out by the ozone
Ozone , or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms. It is an allotrope of oxygen that is much less stable than the diatomic allotrope...

 layer in the stratosphere
The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler...

. Photons at longer wavelengths do not carry enough energy to allow photosynthesis to take place.

Other living organisms, such as green bacteria, purple bacteria
Purple bacteria
Purple bacteria or purple photosynthetic bacteria are proteobacteria that are phototrophic, that is capable of producing energy through photosynthesis...

 and Heliobacteria
The heliobacteria are phototrophic, that is to say, they convert light energy into chemical energy by photosynthesis; they use a PSI type reaction center. The primary pigment involved is bacteriochlorophyll g, which is unique to the group and has a unique absorption spectrum; this gives the...

, can exploit solar light in slightly extended spectral regions, such as the near-infrared. These bacteria live in environments such as the bottom of stagnant ponds, sediment and ocean depths. Because of their pigments, they form colorful mats of green, red and purple. These organisms must make use of the leftovers discarded by the plant kingdom.

Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

, the most abundant plant pigment, is most efficient in capturing red and blue light. Accessory pigment
Accessory pigment
Accessory pigments are light-absorbing compounds, found in photosynthetic organisms, that work in conjunction with chlorophyll a. They include other forms of this pigment, such as chlorophyll b in green algal and higher plant antennae, while other algae may contain chlorophyll c or d...

s such as carotene
The term carotene is used for several related unsaturated hydrocarbon substances having the formula C40Hx, which are synthesized by plants but cannot be made by animals. Carotene is an orange photosynthetic pigment important for photosynthesis. Carotenes are all coloured to the human eye...

s and xanthophyll
Xanthophylls are yellow pigments that form one of two major divisions of the carotenoid group. The name is from Greek xanthos + phyllon , due to their formation of the yellow band seen in early chromatography of leaf pigments...

s harvest some green light and pass it on to the photosynthetic process, but enough of the green wavelengths are reflected to give leaves their characteristic color. An exception to the predominance of chlorophyll is autumn, when chlorophyll is degraded (because it contains N
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 and Mg
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

) but the accessory pigments are not (because they only contain C
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

, H
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 and O
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

) and remain in the leaf producing red, yellow and orange leaves.

PAR measurement is used in agriculture, forestry and oceanography. One of the requirements for productive farmland is adequate PAR, so PAR is used to evaluate agricultural investment potential. PAR sensors stationed at various levels of the forest canopy measure the pattern of PAR availability and utilization. Photosynthetic rate and related parameters can be measured non-destructively using a photosynthesis system
Photosynthesis system
Photosynthesis systems are electronic scientific instruments designed for non-destructive measurement of photosynthetic rates in the field. Photosynthesis systems are commonly used in agronomic and environmental research, as well as studies of the global carbon cycle.- How photosynthesis systems...

, and these instruments measure PAR and sometimes control PAR at set intensities. PAR measurements are also used to calculate the euphotic depth in the ocean. PAR is normally quantified as µmol
Mole (unit)
The mole is a unit of measurement used in chemistry to express amounts of a chemical substance, defined as an amount of a substance that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 , the isotope of carbon with atomic weight 12. This corresponds to a value...

In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

The metre , symbol m, is the base unit of length in the International System of Units . Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole , its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology...

The second is a unit of measurement of time, and is the International System of Units base unit of time. It may be measured using a clock....

, which is a measure of the photosynthetic photon flux (area) density, or PPFD. PAR can also be expressed in energy units (irradiance, W/m2). W/m2 measurements are important in energy balance considerations for photosynthetic organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s. Because photosynthesis is a quantum process, PPFD is generally used by plant biologists.

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