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Ecosystem

Carbon Cycle

The letter C for Carbon
One of the most important elements to life on planet Earth is carbon. All living organisms have carbon as the basis for life. It is so important that animals are often called "carbon-based" life forms.

How much carbon is in the human body?

Carbon makes up about 18% of the human body. So if you weigh 100 pounds, your body contains around 18 pounds of carbon.

The Carbon Cycle

Some carbon atoms are constantly moving around. This is because carbon atoms are used by all sorts of processes on our planet. Some of these processes put carbon into the atmosphere (air) and some take it out. The carbon cycle is often very tied in with the oxygen cycle.

Carbon cycle
Diagram of the Carbon Cycle
Click on picture to see larger view


Taking Carbon out of the Atmosphere

Nature is constantly taking carbon out of the atmosphere. These processes are sometimes called carbon sinks. Moving Carbon into the Atmosphere

At the same time that some processes of nature are removing carbon from the air, other processes are adding more carbon to the air. These processes are called sources. The Carbon Cycle Balance

Carbon is essential for life and nature does a great job of balancing the carbon available through the carbon cycle. Carbon is needed in the atmosphere as well because it helps to keep the Earth warm. Without it we would all be freezing.

How Man Alters the Carbon Cycle

Although nature does a great job in balancing carbon through the carbon cycle, when man gets involved we can upset the balance. By burning fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil lots of carbon is released into the air. Also, cutting down trees for development reduces the amount of plants available to remove carbon from the air.

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