Earth’s Carbon Cycle Consists

Earth’s Carbon Cycle Consists

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The Earth’s carbon cycle consists of the flow, cycling, and recycling of all of the carbon on the Earth. Every living organism’s composition includes the element carbon. How does carbon become part of living organisms?

Carbon is the foundation of all life on Earth, required to form complex molecules like proteins and DNA. This element is also found in our atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon helps to regulate the Earth’s temperature, makes all life possible, is a key ingredient in the food that sustains us, and provides a major source of the energy to fuel our global economy.

The carbon cycle describes the process in which carbon atoms continually travel from the atmosphere to the Earth and then back into the atmosphere. Since our planet and its atmosphere form a closed environment, the amount of carbon in this system does not change. Where the carbon is located — in the atmosphere or on Earth — is constantly in flux.

On Earth, most carbon is stored in rocks and sediments, while the rest is located in the ocean, atmosphere, and in living organisms. These are the reservoirs, or sinks, through which carbon cycles.

Carbon is released back into the atmosphere when organisms die, volcanoes erupt, fires blaze, fossil fuels are burned, and through a variety of other mechanisms.

In the case of the ocean, carbon is continually exchanged between the ocean’s surface waters and the atmosphere, or is stored for long periods of time in the ocean depths.

Humans play a major role in the carbon cycle through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels or land development. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rapidly rising; it is already considerably greater than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

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