Photorespiration is a light-dependent source of H(2)O(2) in the peroxisomes, where concentrations of this signalling molecule are regulated by catalase. Growth of Arabidopsis knock-out mutants for CATALASE2 (cat2) in ambient air caused severely decreased rosette biomass, intracellular redox perturbation and activation of oxidative signalling pathways. These effects were absent when cat2 was grown at high CO(2) levels to inhibit photorespiration, but were re-established following a subsequent transfer to air. Growth of cat2 in air at different daylengths revealed that photoperiod is a critical determinant of the oxidative stress response. Decreased growth was observed in 8-h, 12-h and 16-h photoperiods, but lesion development was dependent on long days. Experiments at different light fluence rates showed that cell death in cat2 was linked to long days and not to total light exposure or the severity of oxidative stress. Perturbed intracellular redox state and oxidative signalling pathway induction were more prominent in short days than in long days, as evidenced by glutathione status and induction of defence genes and oxidative stress-responsive transcripts. Similar daylength-dependent effects were observed in the response of mature plants transferred from short days in high CO(2) conditions to ambient air conditions. Prior growth of plants with short days in air alleviated the cat2 cell-death phenotype in long days. Together, the data reveal the influence of photoperiodic events on redox signalling, and define distinct photoperiod-dependent strategies in the acclimation versus cell-death decision in stress conditions.