Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Carbon, World, Bicycle, Cycle, Earth, Atmosphere, Environmental Issues, Environment

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/12/07

Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines

The carbon cycle is a simple, but life sustaining process that organisms on Earth rely on to survive. The Earth’s atmosphere is comprised of carbon dioxide and methane. Plants cleanse the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, which would otherwise suffocate life. The carbon dioxide is used to create oxygen. As part of the cycle, carbon dioxide is then transferred into organic carbon, or absorbed into large bodies of water, contributing to water acidity and geo-erosion. From there, the carbon waits in the Earth’s mantle to be released naturally into the atmosphere through metamorphosis, or to be released forcibly by humans as they burn fossil fuels.
The carbon cycle is a well-known biogeochemical process without which life on the planet Earth could not exist. Essentially, it allows carbon to pass through the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and finally the atmosphere of the Earth . The carbon cycle intertwines itself with the water and nitrogen cycles, as well; all three are described in as a recyclable sequence, allowing elements to be reused throughout the biosphere. The carbon cycle affects the aforementioned cycles, as well as all life on the planet. The carbon cycle itself consists of very little. Beginning in the Earth’s atmosphere, carbon travels through the air, into the terrestrial biosphere to organic carbon. After that it enters the geosphere where it can wait many years to be released naturally, or be forcibly released by humans back into the atmosphere, thus completing the cycle. Life on the planet influences the carbon cycle, allowing carbon emissions to flood the cycle, damaging the planet and the process. A once natural process that ensured life and our survival is slowly being twisted, because of us, and may one day ensure our extinction.
The primary elements of the carbon cycle are the Earth’s atmosphere, the biosphere, divided into the terrestrial, oceans, and geological areas, and the Earth’s interior, or mantle. The cycle itself begins with the Earth’s atmosphere. The earth’s atmosphere is made up of two primary forms of carbon: methane and carbon dioxide . According to, Flux Control in Biological Systems: From Enzymes to Populations and Ecosystems,” the gases absorb heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, but also absorb it . This has been one of the causes of harmful greenhouses gases trapped within the Earth’s atmosphere, otherwise known as the Greenhouse Effect, as stated in, “Carbon Cycle Makeover .” Carbon dioxide is in the Earth’s atmosphere, and enters the Earth’s atmosphere by leaving through a process known as photosynthesis; it is then sent to the oceanic and terrestrial biospheres . Carbon dioxide can also continue through the cycle by dissolving in the from the Earth’s atmosphere into oceans, lakes, and other large bodies of water. From their, carbon dioxide reacts with water molecules, forming carbonic acid; this adds to the acidity large bodies of water experience, contributing to the weathering of rocks and mountains. It can also acidify ground soil, according to, “Climate Extremes and the Carbon Cycle .” Methane, the other gas contributing to carbon in the atmosphere, is the primary donor to greenhouse gases, even though it endures in lower amounts than carbon dioxide.
The terrestrial biosphere, a part of the carbon cycle, includes all organic matter on the planet. An estimated 2,100 gigatons of carbon are included in the organic matter, living and dead, both above and below the Earth’s soil . The terrestrial biosphere relies on biotic factors to ensure carbon uptake; therefore is follows a spcific cycle known as the Keeling curve . Carbon typically leaves the terrestrial biosphere through respiration or combustion; it can also be spread into water sources. Over the past thirty years, the amount of carbon being released from the terrestrial biosphere has increased ten times what it was in 1989. While humans are thought to be primarily to blame for this, is is hypothesized that rising tempratures have also increased the expedition of decomposing matter in soil, increasing the rate of carbon trapped in the Earth .
The geological element of the carbon cycle operates the slowest. Most of Earth’s carbon that still exists in the Earth’s mantle was formed there when they Earth was formed . An estimated ten percent of it was deposited as organic carbon in the biosphere, while the rest that escaped is stored in the lithosphere. Carbon leaves the geosphere in many ways; carbon dioxide leaves the geosphere as carbonate rocks heat ane become a part of the Earth’s mantle, for example. The resulting carbon dioxide is released into the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean’s through hotspots at the ocean floor, or volcanic openings . Humans are also able to remove the carbon during fossil fuel extraction. As the fossil fuels are burned to release energy, i.e. driving a car, carbon storages are released back into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is then free to reenter the cycle through the aforementioned passages (photosynthesis, dissolving into water, etc.), thus completing the carbon cycle .
In sum, though the carbon cycle often sounds complicated, it is not. The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is able to leave the biosphere most often through a process called photosynthesis. It can also dissolve from the atmosphere into large bodies of water, causing water acidity and geological erosion. The terrestrial biosphere already contains carbon, but also allows more carbon to enter through photosynthesis, as well as soil absorption. Organic carbon can stay in the Earth’s soil, or will become heated and be released back into the atmosphere through the oceans, volcanoes, or the process of burning fossil fuels. While the cycle was once a simple and life-sustaining process, because we are emitting more carbon than ever before, we have created the Greenhouse Effect which is causing carbon dioxide and methane to absorb and trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. In short, we are creating a rise in temperature that may enable a once life-sustaining cycle to kill us.


Berner, E., & Berner, R. (2012). Global Environment: Water, Air, and Geochemical Cycles. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Canfield, D. E., & Kump, L. R. (2013). Carbon Cycle Makeover. GeoChemistry, 533-534.
Field, C. B., & Raupach, M. B. (2012). The Global Carbon Cycle: Integrating Humans, Climate, and the Natural World. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
Reichstein, M., Bahn, M., Ciais, P., Frank, D., Mahecha, M. D., Senevirante, S. I., . . . Vicca, S. (2013). Climate extremes and the carbon cycle. Nature, 287-295.
Schrag, D. P., Higgins, J. A., MacDonald, F., & Johnston, D. T. (2013). Authigenic Carbonate and the History of the Global Carbon Cycle. Science, 520-523.
Schulze, E. (2012). Flux Control in Biological Systems: From Enzymes to Populations and Ecosystems. Sacramento: Academic Press.

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