The Carbon Cycle is a complex series of processes through which all of the carbon atoms in existence rotate. The same carbon atoms in your body today have been used in countless other molecules since time began. The wood burned just a few decades ago could have produced carbon dioxide which through photosynthesis became part of a plant. When you eat that plant, the same carbon from the wood which was burnt can become part of you. The carbon cycle is the great natural recycler of carbon atoms. Unfortunately, the extent of its importance is rarely stressed enough. Without the proper functioning of the carbon cycle, every aspect of life could be changed dramatically.
We believe that it's vital to understand how the carbon cycle works in order to see the danger
of it not working. Therefore, let's look at a sample carbon
cycle and explore how carbon
atoms move through our natural world. Plants, animals, and soil interact
to make up the basic cycles
of nature. In the carbon cycle, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the
atmosphere and use it, combined with water they get from the soil, to
make the substances they need for growth.
The process of photosynthesis incorporates the carbon atoms from carbon
dioxide into sugars.
Animals, such as the rabbit pictured here, eat the plants and use
the carbon to build their own tissues. Other animals, such as the fox,
eat the rabbit and then
use the carbon for their own needs. These animals return carbon dioxide
into the air when they
breathe, and when they die, since the carbon is returned to the soil
during decomposition. The carbon atoms in
soil may then be used in a new plant or small microorganisms.
Ultimately, the same carbon atom
can move through many organisms and even end in the same place where it
began. Herein lies
the fascination of the carbon cycle; the same atoms can be recycled for
Now that you have learned about the cycle, let's go into some specifics.