Physiological models in the plant and crop sciences provide a means of integrating different aspects of the system, in particular the interaction between plant processes and environmental factors. This paper focuses on the response of canopy photosynthesis, including adaptation, to environmental conditions. Adaptation is likely to be important when considering controlled ecological life support systems since physiological characteristics are affected by past as well as current environmental conditions. In particular, the level of photosynthetic enzymes in a plant is generally greater for plants grown in high irradiance levels than for similar plants grown in low irradiance. The models have been developed to apply to `normal' growing conditions, although the principles will apply to closed bioregenerative systems.