Respiration in plants, as in all living organisms, is essential to provide metabolic energy and carbon skeletons for growth and maintenance. As such, respiration is an essential component of a plants carbon budget. Depending on species and environmental conditions, it consumes 25-75% of all the carbohydrates produced in photosynthesis even more at extremely slow growth rates. Respiration in plants can also proceed in a manner that produces neither metabolic energy nor carbon skeletons, but heat. This type of respiration involves the cyanide-resistant, alternative oxidase; it is unique to plants, and resides in the mitochondria. The activity of this alternative pathway can be measured based on a difference in fractionation of oxygen isotopes between the cytochrome and the alternative oxidase. Heat production is important in some flowers to attract pollinators; however, the alternative oxidase also plays a major role in leaves and roots of most plants. A common thread throughout this volume is to link respiration, including alternative oxidase activity, to plant functioning in different environments.

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