From our consideration of this topic so far, it is clear that the ability to adapt the characteristics of their photosynthetic systems to the prevailing light field is widespread among aquatic plants. To what extent is such adaptation of ecological significance?
In broad terms, the significance of ontogenetic adaptation is that it enables a species to exploit a wider range of habitats. Suitability of habitat for aquatic plant photosynthesis varies with depth; with water type, particularly with regard to optical character; with time, as the seasonal cycle progresses; and in the intensity of competition between plants.
The significance of ontogenetic adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus might therefore be assessed in terms of the extent to which it enables particular species to increase the range of depth and of water types that they can exploit, the proportion of the year in which they can grow and the success with which they withstand competition from other species.
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