The Importance of the Carbon Cycle paper

The Importance of the Carbon Cycle

Carbon is an element found in all living substances as well as in many inorganic materials. Both diamond and coal are nearly pure carbon, but with different structures. Carbon is a key element for life, composing almost half of the dry mass of the earth’s plants (that is, the mass when all water is removed). The carbon cycle is the exchange of carbon among three reservoirs or storage places: the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere. The amount of carbon in these reser-voirs is so large that it is expressed in gigatons (Gt): 109 metric tons (1 metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms or 2,200 pounds).


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
The Importance of the Carbon Cycle paper
Just from $9/Page
Order Essay

The atmosphere is the smallest pool of actively cycling carbon, that is, carbon that stays in a reservoir less than a thousand years or so. The land and its plants and animals, which scientists call the terrestrial biosphere, is the next largest reservoir of carbon. The oceans are the earth’s largest active carbon reservoir by far (Figure 1). The carbon budget is the balance of carbon among the three reservoirs.


The carbon cycle is vitally important to life on earth. Through photosynthesis and respiration (see p. 3), it is the way the earth produces food and other renewable resources. Through decomposition, it serves as the earth’s waste disposal system. In addition, the carbon cycle is important because carbon-containing gases in the atmosphere affect the earth’s climate (see “The Greenhouse Effect,” p.2). Increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has been responsible for more than half of the climate warming observed in recent decades.


The processes by which carbon moves through the earth’s reservoirs take place on very different time scales. The short-term carbon cycle includes processes that transfer carbon from one reservoir to another in a matter of years, including photosynthesis, plant, and animal respiration,


and the movement of CO2 across the air-sea interface. Other processes, such as the transformation of carbon into limestone and its subsequent release as the rock is weathered, occur very slow-ly (thousands to millions of years). Scientists call these slower transfers of carbon among reservoirs the long-term carbon cycle.


The carbon cycle is inextricably linked to other chemical cycles, including those of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, as well as to the global hydrological cycle. Please see the Global Change Instruction Program module Global Biogeochemical Cycles and the Physical Climate System or other works for information on these important topics.


Carbon Reservoirs


Actively cycling carbon in its three reservoirs affects human life every day. Carbon in the atmosphere serves as food for plants (in the pres-ence of sunlight); carbon in the soil serves as energy for the growth of miniature animals called microbes; carbon in plants feeds humans and


Figure 1. Magnitudes of the reservoirs of actively cycling CO2 in gigatons of carbon. Of the ocean pool, roughly 1,000 Gt are in contact with the atmosphere in any given decade. The terrestrial biosphere consists of soil (ca. 1,600 Gt) and vegetation (ca. 600 Gt). Data from Schimel et al. (1995).(after Christensen, 1991).


754 2,190 Atmosphere  
    Terrestrial Biosphere  





Photosynthesis and respiration


In the short-term carbon cycle, photosynthesis and respiration are the primary processes that involve the atmosphere. Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants make their food. In this process, plants combine CO2 and water using light energy to make carbon-containing compounds (sugars and starches, called carbo-hydrates). Oxygen is produced during the reac-tion and released to the atmosphere. On land, plants use CO2 from the atmosphere (Figure 4). In the oceans, phytoplankton use CO2 dissolved in seawater; much of this dissolved CO2 also origi-nally came from the atmosphere. Photosynthesis also releases oxygen to the atmosphere.


Thus, thanks to the activity of photosynthetic organisms, all other forms of life on the earth have oxygen to breathe and food to eat—since even carnivores feed on animals that eat plants.


Respiration is the chemical process by which carbon-containing compounds are broken down within cells. It is essentially the opposite of photo-synthesis: oxygen and carbohydrates react to pro-duce CO2 and water, releasing energy during the process. Living organisms use the energy released by respiration to power everything they do. For example, reading this page requires energy, and that energy is supplied by respiration.

      The Carbon Cycle      
    280 Carbon Dioxide        
Concentration of Carbon Dioxide   260   Departure of Temperature    
  240     ° C)  
in the Atmosphere (ppm) 220   +2.5 from Current Level (  
200   0  
180   -2.5  
  Temperature Change -10.0  

160 120 80 40 0 Thousands of Years Before Present



Figure 3. Variations in global temperature (bottom line) and atmo-spheric CO2 concentration (top line) over the last 160,000 years. The strong pattern of higher temperatures when atmospheric CO2 levels are high and cooler temperatures when concentrations are lower has been used to suggest that future increases in atmo-spheric CO2 concentration could lead to warmer temperatures. From Barnola et al. (1987), p. 410.

Options for Mitigating CO2 Releases

In an ideal world, mitigation options would not be necessary because people would realize the potential damage caused by perturbation of the natural carbon cycle and would work to curtail emissions from land use and use of fossil fuels. This not being a perfect world, there are several options for mitigating human-induced car-bon cycle perturbation. The options center on three basic themes: (1) reduce emis-


sions, (2) switch to a renewable energy source, and (3) increase the amount of carbon stored in the ocean and in the terrestrial biosphere.

Obviously, these themes overlap. For example, switching to a renewable energy source, such as solar power, reduces emissions from fossil fuels. Likewise, planting forests to store carbon creates a renewable energy source.


Emissions will be reduced only if new tech-nology becomes available that makes conserva-tion economically sound or if governments force the reduction, through either subsidies, incen-tives, or taxes (disincentives). Keep in mind that any major transformation of the energy, industry, and transportation sectors of the economy is not likely to happen overnight, so emissions will con-tinue to grow in the immediate future.


We are probably all familiar with some of the options for reducing emissions, such as taking public transportation instead of driving a car and keeping buildings cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. This section will concen-trate on the other types of mitigation options, those involving alternative energy sources and





Understanding Global Change: Earth Science and Human Impacts

carbon storage. One issue that must be remem-bered when assessing any of these options is whether it contributes to or undermines the goal of supporting a growing human population and simultaneously providing the required amounts of food, fodder, fiber, and biomass. An analysis of the socioeconomic costs associated with various mitigation options is presented in IPCC (1997).


Developing Renewable Energy Sources

Development of renewable energy sources would reduce emissions of traditional fuels. However, this transformation would have to be economically feasible, either through technologi-cal developments or via incentives. For example, vegetable oil crops are already used to produce biodiesel, and this fuel can be used in current diesel engines. The cost of biodiesel, however, is slightly higher than the cost of petroleum diesel, and so its use is not common.


Planting biofuel crops not only promotes alter-native energy use, but it also reduces emissions of traditional fuels and temporarily increases carbon stor-age. It is estimated that dedicated energy plants could be grown sustainably on 8–11% of marginal to good cropland in the temperate zone. One draw-back is that biofuel crops compete with food crops for limited resources (e.g., water and nutrients).


Use of recycled wood and paper products and industrial timber and paper industry wastes as biofuels is an interesting option, but one that is not yet feasible.



Increasing Carbon Storage


Where sufficient land is available, planting forests can result in a fairly long-term (50 to hun-dreds of years) storage of carbon. Forestry cur-rently offsets 90% of carbon released in Sweden through fossil-fuel burning. Table 6 shows the percentage of fossil-fuel emissions that is offset by forestry in eight other countries. In addition to serving as a storehouse for carbon, forests, like agricultural crops, can be used as an alternative source of energy. Wood grown in plantations can be used to generate electricity instead of using coal; this substitution can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Figure 19

Table 6

Carbon stored in trees and forest litter as a percentage of national fossil-fuel emissions


After Brown et al. (1996).


        Percentage of
    Carbon Stored Fossil-Fuel Fossil-Fuel
    in Trees Carbon Emissions
    and Litter Emissions Removed by
Country (Mt)* (Mt/yr) Forests
Great Britain >87 164 1.5
New Zealand 113 8 44
Finland 978 18 28
Germany 1,500–2,000 268 2
Canada 12,000 136 37.5
India 10,000 137 3.6
Poland 1,113 131 6
USA 18,585 1,300 6


*Mt is millions of tons.



depicts the amount of carbon that can be either stored or saved (not released to the atmosphere) by forests in several latitudinal bands. Note that the forests of the tropics have the greatest poten-tial to affect future atmospheric CO2 levels.


In some parts of the ocean, lack of iron (rather than lack of nutrients) appears to limit marine plant growth. It has been suggested that



Figure 19. Average annual rate of carbon uptake and storage per decade through forest management practices by latitudinal region. Note that the forests of the tropics have the greatest potential to reduce future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. From Brown et al. (1996), p. 786.


(Gt/yr) 2.5            
2.0 Temperate        
or Conserved        
1.5 Total          
C Sequestered 1.0            
  1995 2005 2015 2025 2035 2045  






The Carbon Cycle

increasing oceanic iron concentrations in these areas could speed up the biological pump and thus reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. However, experiments in adding iron to ocean waters (called iron fertilization) have shown that although productivity was greatly increased at first, the final effect was negligible because the additional plant material simply joined the food chain. In other words, iron fertilization led to more sharks rather than to less atmospheric CO2. Most scientists now believe that even excessive iron fertilization of selected areas of the ocean would have a relatively small impact on atmo-spheric CO2 levels.


Several carbon storage options also not only reduce climate change but increase or restore ecosystem health. One such option is to convert marginal or surplus cropland and pasture to for-est or natural (ungrazed) grassland.




Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper