Carbon cycle

Carbon cycles play a significant role in our everyday life. In this module, our main objective is for students to fully understand the process of carbon cycles. Here is a brief summary of what you will learn in this module:

  • The two carbon cycle elements and which of them is primarily responsible for the fuels that we use today.
  • The different areas in our surroundings where carbon cycles occur.
  • The different carbon cycle processes.
  • The steps of the carbon cycle process.
Gasoline

Carbon is so essential to our daily lives that it is often referred to as “the building block of life.” Carbon cycles are just as essential as the various processes of the water cycle. The processes of carbon cycles are especially crucial to society because they are what allow us to harness the energy we use to fuel our cars and various machines. They are also crucial in plants because they allow photosynthesis to occur, which leads to plant growth and the production of oxygen. Without the existence of plants, there would be no oxygen and human life on this planet would be impossible.

Car engine

Furthermore, carbon cycles help sustain a tolerable level of humidity by regulating the quantity of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The cycles regulate the carbon content, breaking them into some smaller compounds, both carbon dioxide and monoxide, and also chlorofluorocarbons (or CFC).

The Different Areas and Corresponding Procedures of the Carbon Cycle

Land

  • The absorption of carbon dioxide that gives plants the ability to produce their own food is called photosynthesis.
  • The carbon build-up is stored in a biomass.
  • The transfer of carbon to the soil through leaf waste products and decomposed portions of plants.
  • The production of bacteria by decomposition eventually leads to the release of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
  • Organic systems that are still alive allow carbon to be rapidly cycled through the sky, flora, and soils.
  • Humans play a major role in the disruption of the cycle of carbon. Our modernization efforts have led to the rapid destruction of the habitat of numerous plants.

Bodies of Water

  • The shells of animals store a large supply of carbon and gather on the ocean’s floor. Over time, these shells are implanted with sediment which leads to the creation of carbon-infused rocks, such as limestone.
  • When this carbon-infused limestone is exposed to air, it shatters and becomes weathered. As a result, carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere.
  • There are also some instances in which these particular rocks will come into contact with rain, and the resulting mixture of rain water and carbon can create acid rain. There is a high chance of chemical weathering, which sends the carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Other circumstances in which gases are released into the atmosphere include volcanic eruptions, both on land and in water. Carbon dioxide is released from the rocks that are melted in the eruption.

Atmosphere

  • The respiration of flora and fauna sends carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  • Human-caused carbon emissions occur when we burn fossil fuels to power factories and energy plants, as well as automobiles and other vehicles.

The Fundamentals of the Carbon Cycle Process

The Slow Carbon Cycle

The slow carbon cycle can take up to 100 or 200 million years to complete, resulting in the release of carbon into the air, ground and water. The movement of tectonic plates, as well as chemical reactions, help this global process occur.

The Step-By-Step Process of the Slow Carbon Cycle:

  • Rain pours from the sky.
  • Carbon compounds that originated within the atmosphere mix with water, which will eventually form an acid.
  • The carbon’s acid falls on the ground starting the chemical process of weathering, which happens when the acid comes into contact with rocks.
  • When chemical weathering happens, it releases different minerals. Rivers carry those mineral ions to the largest body of water, the ocean.
  • The calcium ions mix with bicarbonate ions to produce a calcium carbonate, which is an active compound. It is an antacid that can often be found on faucets (the powdery white material that makes your faucet dry).
  • Some creatures, such as corals and plankton, that mostly reside underwater, are the main component in the formation of fossil fuels because when these organisms die, their remains fall to the seafloor.
Coral
  • After many years, the layers of their shells and remains bond together and eventually transform into rocks which pile up as deposits of carbon in the stone which then form rocks, like limestone.
Limestones

The majority of rocks that contain carbon are created in this manner, however there are a small percentage of rocks that contain organic carbon which are formed in layers of mud. Over a period of millions of years, factors like heat and pressure condense the mud and carbon, creating specific types of sedimentary rock, such as shale.

Not all carbon cycles are this slow. There are circumstances when a plant dies and a much quicker decomposition process results in oil, coal, or natural gas.

The Fast Carbon Cycle

In contrast to the slow carbon cycle, the fast carbon cycle involves a rapid interchange between the surface of the water, atmosphere, biosphere, and topsoil.

The Various Processes of the Fast Carbon Cycle:

  • Photosynthesis – carbon dioxide is absorbed from the sky and from water which gives plants the capacity to create organic structures of carbon.
  • Respiration – carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere, soil, and bodies of water by terrestrial animals whenever they exhale.
Respiration
  • Digestion – Animals (both terrestrial and marine) excrete compounds of carbon after eating a food that is rich in carbon.
  • Decomposition – bacteria breaks down the structures of animals and plants and eventually releases compounds of carbon into the atmosphere, soil, and bodies of water.
Decomposition
  • Combustion – a compound of carbon, which originates in flora, is released into the atmosphere as a result of naturally occurring fires, such as wildfires.
Combustion
IMAGE SOURCES:
  1. Respiration: https://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?g=18
  2. Combustion: https://slideplayer.com/slide/5885620/
  3. Other images are sourced via pixabay.com free open source images