The Calvin Cycle Diagram: Key Process for Sustainable Life on Earth

Last updated on November 29, 2023 by

Photosynthesis is one of the most fundamental processes that enable life on Earth. Along the process lies the Calvin cycle, a complex biochemical system that transforms carbon dioxide into simple sugars. This is the primary source of energy for all living organisms. Through this cycle, plants play a vital role in regulating the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Additionally, it provides the building blocks for life and sustains the delicate balance of our planet’s ecosystem. In this article, we will delve deeper into this cycle and explore it visually using a diagram.

Calvin Cycle Photosynthesis

What is Calvin Cycle?

The Calvin Cycle was named after its discoverer, American biochemist Melvin Calvin. He conducted the research in the 1940s and 1950s at the University of California, Berkeley. Further, this biochemical process takes place within the chloroplasts of various photosynthetic organisms, including plants, algae, and bacteria. It is also referred to as the light-independent reaction since it does not rely on light energy to proceed. On top of that, its primary function is to transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic molecules, predominantly glucose. It is an organism that can be used as an energy source.

Calvin Cycle Diagram & Functions

map of calvin cycle
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This light-independent reaction of photosynthesis serves several important functions for the photosynthetic organism. Here are some of the key functions of the Calvin cycle.

Fix Carbon Dioxide

The primary job of this process is to turn atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic compounds. For this reason, carbon dioxide is transformed into a three-carbon sugar called 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PGA) during the carbon fixation phase.

Energy Storage

Stored energy from the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis produces ATP and NADPH. Wherein, the energy is stored in the form of high-energy compounds, such as G3P. It can be used later for cellular respiration or for the biosynthesis of other organic molecules.

Synthesis of Organic Molecules

The G3P produced in the Calvin cycle can be used to synthesize a variety of organic molecules. This includes glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Nevertheless, these molecules are essential for the growth and maintenance of the organism. They serve as a source of energy and carbon for metabolic processes.

Produce Three-Carbon Sugar

One of the primary purposes of the Calvin cycle is to produce three-carbon sugars. These serve as the building blocks for more complex sugars like glucose, starch, and cellulose. With that, plants can rely on these sugars as a structural material.

Stages of the Calvin Cycle

phases of calvin cycle
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Chloroplasts in photosynthetic organisms undergo a series of metabolic processes known as the stages of the Calvin Cycle. It consists of three key stages, namely carbon fixation, reduction, and regeneration. Each is responsible for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic molecules, primarily glucose.

Carbon Fixation

Photosynthetic organisms convert Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into organic compounds. This process is known as Carbon Fixation. First, an enzyme known as RuBisCo stimulates the reaction between ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Then, it produces two molecules of a three-carbon compound called 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PGA). Moreover, this initial stage fixes carbon and makes it available for the synthesis of sugars and other organic molecules.

ATP and NADPH provide the energy and reduce power after the carbon dioxide is fixed into 3-PGA. Subsequently, they are used to convert 3-PGA into glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3P),  responsible for the synthesis of glucose and other sugars. Some of the G3P is used to regenerate RuBP, which allows the cycle to continue and fix more carbon dioxide. See the Calvin Cycle diagram to visualize the idea. 


The reduction phase is essential for the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric carbon dioxide.  It provides the energy and reducing power necessary to transform simple, inorganic carbon into more complex, energy-rich molecules. Additionally, reduction refers to the conversion of 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PGA), a three-carbon compound, into glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (G3P). The reduction of 3-PGA into G3P involves a series of enzyme-catalyzed reactions that use ATP and NADPH. It adds high-energy electrons and hydrogen ions to 3-PGA, converting it into G3P.


In this phase, the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3P) produced during the reduction stage is used to regenerate ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP). Besides, this is a critical stage for the continued fixation of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the production of organic compounds. They are essential for plant growth and survival. 

A series of enzyme-catalyzed reactions convert some of the G3P molecules into ribulose 5-phosphate (Ru5P during the regeneration stage. As a result, it is converted into ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) by the enzyme phosphoribulokinase (PRK). In addition, this reaction requires the input of one ATP molecule for each molecule of RuBP produced. The remaining unused G3P molecules can be used for the synthesis of glucose and other sugars within the plant.

Accordingly, RuBP continues to fix carbon and produce energy-rich organic molecules. They are eventually used for cellular respiration or stored as starch or other carbohydrates in the plant.


The Calvin cycle diagram helps to visualize easily the idea and concepts of the process. It helps to understand its vital role that driving photosynthesis, enabling the sustenance of life on Earth. Nonetheless, learning its functions and stages helps us to be mindful of the world around us. We hope that this blog gives you a lot of learnings today. And stay tuned for more informative and enlightening articles, only here at GitMind.

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Posted by: on to Tips and Resources. Last updated on November 29, 2023

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