Carbon Cycle

Carbon cycle represents the movement of carbon in elemental and combined states on earth. Diamond and graphite are the elemental forms of carbon and in a combined state, it is found as carbonates in minerals and as carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. 

Carbon Cycle Definition

Carbon cycle can be defined as the process where carbon compounds are interchanged among the biosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the earth.

Carbon Cycle Steps

Following are the main steps that are involved in the process of the carbon cycle:

  • Carbon present in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants for photosynthesis.

  • These plants are then consumed by animals, and carbon gets bio accumulated into their bodies. 

  • When the plants and animals die and they are decomposed, carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

  • Some of the carbon that’s not released back to the atmosphere eventually becomes fossil fuels.

  • These fossil fuels are then used for man-made activities, which pumps more carbon back to the atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle Diagram

The carbon cycle diagram below explains well the flow of carbon along different paths - 

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Carbon Cycle on Land

Carbon in the atmosphere is present in the form of carbon dioxide. Carbon enters the atmosphere through natural processes like respiration and industrial applications like burning fossil fuels. The process of photosynthesis involves the absorption of CO2 by plants to produce carbohydrates. The equation is as follows:

CO2 + H2O + energy 

 CH2O +O2

Carbon compounds are passed along the food chain from the producers to consumers. The majority of the carbon exists in the body in the form of carbon dioxide through respiration. The role of decomposers is to eat the dead organism and return the carbon from their body back into the atmosphere. The equation for this process is:

CH2O +O

 CO2 + H2O

Oceanic Carbon Cycle

This is essentially a carbon cycle but within the sea. Ecologically, oceans absorb more carbon than it gives out. Hence, it’s called a “carbon sink.” Marine animals convert carbon to carbonate and this forms the raw building materials required to make hard shells, almost like the ones found in clams and oysters.

When organisms with carbonate shells die, their body decomposes, leaving their hard shells. These accumulate on the seafloor and are eventually broken down by the waves and compacted under enormous pressure, forming limestone.

When these limestone rocks are exposed to air, they get weathered and the carbon is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Importance of Carbon Cycle

Even though CO2 is found in small traces within the atmosphere, it plays an important role in balancing the energy and traps the long-wave radiations from the sun. Therefore, it acts like a blanket over the planet. If the carbon cycle is disturbed it'll end in serious consequences like climatic changes and heating .

Carbon is an integral component of every life form on earth. From proteins and lipids to even our DNA. Furthermore, all known life on earth is predicated on carbon. Hence, the carbon cycle, alongside the organic process and oxygen cycle, plays an important role within the existence of life on earth.

Key Points on Carbon Cycle

  • Carbon cycle leads to the movement of carbon between the earth’s biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere.

  • Carbon is an important element of life.

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is taken up by the green plants and other photosynthetic organisms and is converted into organic molecules that travel through the food chain. Carbon atoms are then released as CO2 when organisms respire.

  • The formation of fossil fuels and sedimentary rocks lead to the process of carbon cycle for very long periods.

  • The carbon cycle is related to the supply of other compounds also .

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is a Carbon Cycle? 

Ans - Carbon cycle can be defined as the process where carbon compounds are interchanged among the biosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the earth.

Q2. What are the Types of the Carbon Cycle?

Carbon Cycle can be classified into two types based on the duration of the process into two types:

  • Short term – This type occurs within a relatively short period of time. It is named as such because it takes just days, months or years for carbon to flow across the various carbon reservoirs.

  • Long term – This type takes thousands of years to occur. The excess carbon from the short-term cycle is stored for a long time before they are released.

Q3. What is the Importance of Carbon Cycle? 

Ans - Even though CO2 is found in small traces within the atmosphere, it plays an important role in balancing the energy and traps the long-wave radiations from the sun. Therefore, it acts like a blanket over the planet. If the carbon cycle is disturbed it'll end in serious consequences like climatic changes and heating .

Carbon is an integral component of every life form on earth. From proteins and lipids to even our DNA. Furthermore, all known life on earth is predicated on carbon. Hence, the carbon cycle, alongside the organic process and oxygen cycle, plays an important role within the existence of life on earth.

Q4. What are the Steps of Carbon Cycle?

Ans - Following are the main steps that are involved in the process of the carbon cycle:

  • Carbon present in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants for photosynthesis.

  • These plants are then consumed by animals, and carbon gets bio accumulated into their bodies. 

  • When the plants and animals die and they are decomposed, carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

  • Some of the carbon that’s not released back to the atmosphere eventually becomes fossil fuels.

  • These fossil fuels are then used for man-made activities, which pumps more carbon back to the atmosphere.