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How does photosynthesis occur?

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Quick Answer

Photosynthesis occurs when green plants harness the energy in sunlight and convert it to chemical energy in the form of sugars. Photosynthesis occurs in all green plants and a few other, simple organisms, such as algae and some bacteria. Photosynthetic organisms typically feature small structures called chloroplasts in their cells.

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Full Answer

Chloroplasts require several ingredients to complete the act of photosynthesis. They require carbon dioxide, water and micronutrients from the soil, in addition to sunlight. The sunlight carries energy with it and through the production of sugars, the plant stores this energy for later use.

The process of photosynthesis also generates several byproducts. Oxygen is produced in the process, which serves the respiration needs of the planet’s animals. Additionally, while plants require water to initiate photosynthesis, the chemical reaction also produces water. This is part of the reason plants have a cooling effect on the environment, as they are a source of nearly constant evaporative cooling.

Photosynthesis provides the food for the bottom of the food chain. Accordingly, scientists call green plants "producers," while animals that eat them are called "consumers." At the other end of the food chain, decomposers release the micronutrients in dead organisms so that plants can absorb them.

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