Can Plants Survive Without Oxygen?

Many people believe that plants consume only carbon dioxide (CO2) from the environment and release oxygen. You should know about the importance of oxygen (O2) for plants and the dependency of their cellular processes on aerial gases.

Can Plants Survive Without Oxygen? Plants cannot survive without oxygen because they need it for aerobic respiration and efficient growth. Moreover, it helps in the better distribution of nutrients in the plant body and nourishment of roots. In addition, it helps in homeostasis, food production, and efficient absorption of light energy. They need oxygen for the proper functioning of cells that are not exposed to sunlight to get energy. 

The respiration mechanism of plants differs from humans, and they consume CO2 and release oxygen.

Can plants live without oxygen?

Plants are living things and need oxygen to survive like other living organisms. You know about a photosynthesis process in which they use CO2 to produce oxygen.

This product of the photosynthesis process helps them to conduct different cellular processes. Their metabolic processes get disturbed when it is not available for longer.

So, they can’t survive in the absence of oxygen, unlike a few anaerobic microbes that can live without it.

Why plants cannot survive without oxygen?

Many reasons account for plants’ inability to live without light and air exposure. 

Aerobic respiration

Two types of respiration are observed in living organisms; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic respiration depends on oxygen availability to carry out all the cellular processes.

They need aerial gases to continue the process of aerobic respiration, in which they use oxygen (O2) to get instant energy from the food produced during the photosynthetic process.

The parts of plants present above the soil, like leaves and stems, can receive energy from sunlight to carry out photosynthesis.

So, they do not have to depend on another source in the daytime because a chemical reaction of water and carbon dioxide can give off a sufficient amount of oxygen to breathe.

However, the root cells cannot receive proper sunlight, so they have to devise other strategies for obtaining it. They use air as a source from spaces present between the soil particles.

It is required in the last step of aerobic respiration, where it is fed into the electron transport chain. They break sugar into acids, alcohol, and CO2 when oxygen is not available to them.

Some living organisms, including bacteria, have anoxygenic photosynthesis that can efficiently convert light into energy.

This type of photosynthetic process cannot produce water and O2 as a product. Moreover, they can store light as chemical energy for metabolic processes.

Efficient growth

They can grow efficiently when there is no deficiency of nutrients to them. It promotes their growth and helps them become healthy and look fresh.

However, its absence leads to stunted growth, and their cells cannot function properly.

The root cells cannot nourish appropriately under anaerobic conditions, leading to inefficient transfer of nutrients from the soil to the leaves.

You can see noticeable physiological and metabolic changes as the leaves appear pale in color and show a slower growth pattern.

Better distribution of nutrients

It helps distribute nutrients through different parts of the plant, including stems and leaves from the roots. The root system absorbs it from the soil through moisture or air particles.

It helps transfer nutrients through roots to stem and then leaves in an upward motion.

However, leaves cells or stomata can also capture oxygen and transfer it to those parts which are not capable enough to get it from the air.

It can break down complex compounds and release energy that helps plants grow and propagate.

Better absorption of light energy

The photosynthesis process cannot occur without oxygen, even if it is not the primary reactant in this process and produced as a product.

Cells need the energy to absorb light from the sun and use it for preparing food. Moreover, it requires energy to remove the extra water or wastes from the plant.

When the photosynthesis process is occurring at a fast rate, then they do not need aerial sources for oxygen as they can get energy from the internal processes.

However, they have to capture more light and release more energy when the plant is young and growing, so they activate stomata to allow its intake from the environment.

How much oxygen do plants use?

Its requirement for plants varies according to the time of day. In the daytime, they do not need it so much as their photosynthetic system can produce food and O2.

This produced gas is enough to be used in respiration, which helps break down food. However, roots get it from the air spaces present in the soil particles to provide this to its cells.

So, the total amount of oxygen required in the morning to sunset time is lower than that required at night.

In the dark, there is no sunlight to continue photosynthesis in the upper parts, so they depend on conserved energy sources and O2 in the air.

It is required not only for roots but for leaves and stems in the nighttime, so its consumption is more than that in the daytime.

You can relate this fact with the preference to sleep inside at home because plants consume atmospheric O2.

Therefore, it can cause a shortage of oxygen in the environment, resulting in suffocation.

How do plants consume oxygen?

The atmosphere contains many gases that help survive all living things, including plants. However, almost 20 to 22% of atmospheric gases are only oxygen gas, which is available for respiration.

Different parts of the plant consume oxygen in different ways.

Likewise, the green parts can utilize oxygen produced from photosynthesis and air, while roots rely on soil due to lack of exposure to the environment.

It enters the plant through an opening or tiny pores of leaves known as stomata. These bean-shaped structures also release extra water from the plant body.

After that, it reacts with the sugar produced after the completion of photosynthesis. Finally, the breakdown of sugar molecules into simpler compounds during respiration generates energy.

Furthermore, they use this conserved energy during nighttime when there is no sunlight.

Is it harmful to plants to live in excess of oxygen?

Its excess is not beneficial for plants as they need an optimum level of each nutrient and such gases.

A rubisco enzyme can bind to these O2 gas molecules and is responsible for photorespiration. Less efficient photorespiration is the result of excess oxygen in its surroundings.

In the same way, it can affect their growth or reduce it compared to the normal growth pattern. So, it is harmful for them to live in excess of gases as it has a negative impact on their growth.

How long can plants survive without oxygen?

Their internal metabolic processes halt when they do not get enough oxygen from air or through photosynthesis.

They can die immediately when they cannot respire because the root cells depend on air for nourishment and nutrient transport.

Moreover, the root system determines overall health, and it dries quickly when it is unavailable to the roots.

They cannot produce enough energy or ATP to help respiration and food breakdown.

What plants can survive without oxygen?

Some plants do not need oxygen from the air to meet their cell’s requirements. Lesser production of CO2 at night helps conserve oxygen for cells’ internal processes.

Aloe Vera can produce enough oxygen for itself during the day and night, so it does not need it from the air to carry out life processes.

It produces a lot of oxygen through photosynthesis during the day but releases a low amount of CO2.

In the same way, Peepal and Neem can perform a different type of metabolism by consuming CO2 even at night.

Many other houseplants like money plants, orchids, and cacti can live without oxygen because they can respire at night by consuming carbon dioxide.

What do people say about this?

I surveyed 529 people to learn about their plant’s nature and requirements for better survival.

Out of 529 people, 442 people (84%) said their ornamental trees and leafy vegetables need enough quantity of water, light, and oxygen to survive.

However, 64 people (12%) said they had grown snake plants and aloe vera that had grown well even at night, and the absence of oxygen does not bring a prominent effect on their health.

While the remaining 23 people (4%) said they have no idea about the oxygen requirement of plants as they do not deal with them directly.

All the plants that respire aerobically need oxygen; otherwise, they will die quickly or result in slower growth of the cells.

“I have many rose flowers in my garden that needs proper care and nutrients, water, and oxygen.”

Aloe Vera has distinctive properties and can grow well even with less oxygen and sunlight. This is because they do not get aerial oxygen and use their own produced energy for processes.

“I like Aloe Vera due to its tough nature as the absence of light and oxygen do not bother its growth.”

All the herbs are super-fast in growing even under stressful conditions due to their high resistance.

“I have grown thyme and oregano in my backyard, highly resistant to changing weather, and can live without absorbing oxygen.”

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