Tree Respiration – How does it work?

Trees respiration is an interesting process. It is the opposite of photosynthesis. (For more on photosynthesis, please visit this blog page. We’ve covered the topic already.) Tree respiration occurs constantly in the mitochondria of each of the tree’s cells. Tree respiration is part of how a tree breathes.

Tree respiration uses up stored oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, energy and water into the atmosphere. Okay, trees don’t actually breathe, but tree respiration is comparable to when we inhale air into our lungs. Photosynthesis is like the tree taking an exhale. Tree respiration does not directly benefit the environment. However, trees still absorb more harmful carbon dioxide than they release into the environment thanks to photosynthesis. For example, a medium-sized tree releases the same amount of air required for a human being to breathe.

As we said before, tree respiration occurs in the mitochondria of each tree cell. First, glucose gets oxidized. The chemical potential energy of this bond turns into the chemical potential bonds of an ATP molecule. (We know – it sounds technical, but hang on.) The ATP molecule is then transported throughout the cell. The molecule’s energy is then used to complete tasks in the cell. Therefore, respiration energizes the cells of the tree.

Trees respire constantly unlike in photosynthesis when they need the sun’s help. In dark conditions, tree respiration takes place but not photosynthesis. If the tree stops respiring, it will die. Tree respiration is basically a chemical reaction that gives the tree the energy (food) it needs to survive.

The word equation for tree respiration is this:

glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water (+ energy)

It is the opposite of the equation for photosynthesis. The two need to work together so a tree can breathe properly. If you are having difficulty understanding this, we encourage you to ask questions on our Facebook page, located at:

If you need us to come look at your trees to make sure they’re healthy, we can do that for you. Don’t hesitate to call us at 512-341-8888. We are happy to help you at Austin Tree Service.