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Carbon Cycle – Definition, Steps, Importance, Examples

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  • Last Updated : 15 Jun, 2022
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Carbon is an element with the chemical symbol C. Its atomic number is six. Because it is nonmetallic and tetravalent, it may form covalent chemical connections with four electrons. It belongs to Periodic Table Group 14. Carbon occupies 0.025% of the crust of the earth. Because of its abundance, astonishing diversity of organic compounds, and extraordinary ability to build polymers at common Earth temperatures, carbon is a common ingredient in all known life. After oxygen, it is the second most abundant element in the human body in terms of mass.

Properties of Carbon

  1. It has many allotropes and other forms. E.g. Diamond and graphite.
  2. Under normal circumstances, carbon is extremely inert.
  3. It has the atomic number 6 because it has 6 protons in its nucleus.
  4. Carbon is nonmetallic as well as tetravalent.
  5. It comes in a range of sizes and shapes.
  6. The chemical element is capable of forming bonds with other elements.

Application of Carbon

  1. It is a free element with a wide range of applications. These include the use of diamond or black pigment to embellish automobile rims or printer ink.
  2. Another kind of carbon is graphite, which has been used in high-temperature crucibles, arc lamp electrodes, dry cells, and pencil tips.
  3. To carbonate drinks, they utilize carbon dioxide and a fire extinguisher.
  4. Dry ice is one of its states.
  5. Carbon monoxide can also be used to reduce heat in a variety of metallurgical processes.
Carbon Cycle


Carbon Cycle

The carbon cycle represents the transportation of carbon in its elemental and mixed states throughout the planet. Carbon exists as carbonates in minerals and as carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere in its combined state as diamond and graphite. The carbon cycle is the process through which carbon compounds are exchanged between the earth’s biosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle Steps

  1. Plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere in order to perform photosynthesis.
  2. Animals eat these plants, and carbon is bioaccumulated in their bodies.
  3. Carbon is released back into the atmosphere when these animals and plants die and disintegrate.
  4. Carbon that is not re-emitted into the atmosphere gets transformed into fossil fuels in some cases.
  5. These fossil fuels are subsequently used in man-made activities, which contribute more carbon to the atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle on Land

The majority of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere exists in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. Both of these gases are substantial contributors to global warming since they are greenhouse gases that absorb and retain heat, causing the planet’s atmosphere to warm. Carbon dioxide and methane are both gradually eliminated from the atmosphere via the natural carbon cycle process.

The terrestrial and oceanic biospheres absorb the majority of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis conducted by various animals within them such as plants in the terrestrial biosphere and cyanobacteria and algae in the oceanic biosphere. Some carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds fall to the ground along with the rain. Thus, the carbon cycle is the most severely impacted element of the global carbon cycle as a result of human activity, primarily in the form of carbon dioxide.

Oceanic Carbon Cycle

This is similar to a carbon cycle, however, it takes place in the sea. Oceans absorb more carbon than they emit from an ecological standpoint. As a result, it’s known as a “carbon sink.” Marine animals convert carbon to carbonate, which is used to generate the raw elements for hard shells similar to those found in clams and oysters. When carbonate-shelled organisms die, their bodies disintegrate, leaving only their hard shells. These build up on the seafloor, where they are eventually broken down by the waves and compacted under extreme pressure, resulting in limestone. When these limestone rocks are exposed to air, the carbon is weathered and released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Importance of Carbon Cycle

Carbon dioxide is essential for energy balance and traps long-wave solar radiation. As a result, it acts as a blanket for the entire planet. Major consequences, such as climatic shifts and global warming, would ensue if the carbon cycle was disturbed. Everything is affected, from proteins and lipids to our DNA. Carbon is also the building block of all known life on Earth. Thus, carbon cycle with nitrogen and oxygen cycles, is essential for life on Earth to survive.

Conceptual Questions

Question 1: What are the types of the carbon cycle?


The Carbon Cycle can be divided into two types based on the duration of the process: short term and long term.

Question 2: What is the short-term carbon cycle?


It takes place in a relatively short amount of time. It is so named because carbon flows through the various carbon reservoirs in a matter of days, months, or years.

Question 3: What is the long-term carbon cycle? 


It takes hundreds of years for this to happen. Before being released, the extra carbon from the short-term cycle is held for a long period.

Question 4: Why is the carbon cycle important?


The Carbon Cycle is critical to the existence of all life on Earth. Carbon is environmentally friendly because it traps the heat of the sun. Carbon is the building block of life and forms stable bonds with other elements required for life, according to biology.

Question 5: What is the carbon cycle?


The Carbon Cycle is a biogeochemical cycle in which diverse carbon compounds exchange across the earth’s layers, especially the biosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.

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