Edexcel A (SNAB) A Level Biology:复习笔记2.1.1 Properties of Gas Exchange Surfaces

Properties of Gas Exchange Surfaces

  • All organisms need to exchange gases with their environment, e.g.
    • Aerobic respiration requires oxygen and produces carbon dioxide as a waste product
    • Photosynthesis requires carbon dioxide and produces oxygen as a waste product
  • The process of gas exchange occurs by diffusion
  • The surface over which this gas exchange takes place is known as an exchange surface; exchange surfaces have specific properties that enable efficient exchange to take place

Surface area to volume ratio

  • The surface area of an organism refers to the total area of the organism that is exposed to the external environment
  • The volume refers to the total internal volume of the organism, or total amount of space inside the organism
  • The surface area of an organism in relation to its volume is referred to as an organism's surface area : volume ratio (SA:V ratio)
  • As the overall size of the organism increases, the surface area becomes smaller in comparison to the organism's volume, and the organism's surface area: volume ratio decreases
    • This is because volume increases much more rapidly than surface area as size increases
  • Single-celled organisms have a high SA:V ratio which allows the exchange of substances to occur by simple diffusion
    • The large surface area allows for maximum absorption of nutrients and gases and removal of waste products
    • The small volume within the cell means the diffusion distance to all organelles is short
  • As organisms increase in size their SA:V ratio decreases
    • There is less surface area for the absorption of nutrients and gases and removal of waste products in relation to the volume, and therefore requirements, of the organism
    • The greater volume results in a longer diffusion distance to the cells and tissues of the organism
  • Large multicellular organisms have evolved adaptations to facilitate the exchange of substances with their environment
    • The gas exchange systems of multicellular organisms are adapted to increase the surface area available for the exchange of gases e.g.
      • Alveoli increase the surface area of mammalian lungs
      • Fish gills have structures called lamellae which provide a very large surface area
      • Leaves have a spongy mesophyll layer within which a large area of leaf cell surface is exposed to the air
  • Note that the problem of internal diffusion distance is a separate, though connected, issue solved by the presence of a mass transport system such as a circulatory system

Diffusion pathway

  • The diffusion pathway, or distance, across an exchange surface is very short
  • The surface often contains only one layer of epithelial cells
    • The cells can also be flattened in shape to further reduce the distance across them
  • This means that substances have a very short diffusion pathway

Concentration gradient

  • This is the difference in concentration of the exchange substances on either side of the exchange surface, e.g. between the air inside the alveoli and the blood
  • A greater difference in concentration means a greater rate of diffusion as the gas molecules move across the exchange surface
  • The continued movement of exchange substances away from the exchange surface mean that a concentration gradient is maintained
    • This is achieved by e.g.
      • The alveoli have a good blood supply; this constantly removes oxygen from the capillary side of the exchange surface and supplies carbon dioxide
      • The ventilation system in mammals ensures constant inhalation and exhalation; this supplies oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the alveoli side of the exchange surface

Exam Tip

Be careful when discussing surface area; the phrases 'surface area' and 'surface area : volume ratio' cannot be used interchangeably. Larger organisms have a larger surface area than smaller ones (an elephant clearly has a larger surface area than a bacterial cell), but it is the surface area : volume ratio that gets smaller as body size increases.