Carbon Cycle

Kilah Shofner & Esmeralda Huerta

What is the Carbon Cycle?

The carbon cycle is the circulation and transformation of carbon back and forth between living things and the environment. Carbon can exist in solids, liquids, and gases and is often referred as the "building block of life" because living things are based on carbon and carbon compounds. Carbon on the earth and in the earth's atmosphere is fixed, but the fixed amount is always changing into different carbon compounds and moving between living and nonliving things. In the first step, photosynthesis takes place and the plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and release oxygen. In the next step, the animals eat the plants, breathe in the oxygen, and exhale the carbon dioxide. Carbon stored in plants that are not eaten by animals eventually decomposes after the plants die, and is either released into the atmosphere or stored in the soil.
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How does the burning of fossil fuels impact the carbon cycle and the environment?

Burning fossil fuels puts carbon into the atmosphere. Other smaller sources include industrial processes such as cement manufacture and natural gas flaring. Fossil fuels provide most of the energy that supports human transportation, electricity production, heating and cooling of buildings, and industrial activity. Without human interference, the carbon in fossil fuels would leak into the atmosphere through volcanic activity over a million years in a slow carbon cycle. By burning coal, oil, and natural gas, we accelerate the process, releasing vast amounts of carbon.
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The long and short terms of the Carbon Cycle!

The long term carbon cycle involves the movement of carbon between the solid earth and atmosphere.

Ex: coal production, oil production, natural gas production, and uranium production

The short term carbon cycle refers to the circulation of carbon among the surfaces of reservoirs.

Ex: the ocean, the atmosphere, the soil, and the biosphere

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