The carbon cycle

The carbon cycle

Carbon is the backbone of life on Earth. We are made of carbon, we eat carbon, and our civilizations – our economies, our homes, our means of transport – are built on carbon. We need carbon, but that need is also entwined with one of the most serious problems facing us today: global climate change.

Forged in the heart of aging stars, carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the Universe. Most of Earth’s carbon – about 65,500 billion metric tons – is stored in rocks. The rest is in the ocean, atmosphere, plants, soil, and fossil fuels.

Carbon flows between each reservoir in an exchange called the carbon cycle, which has slow and fast components. Any change in the cycle that shifts carbon out of one reservoir puts more carbon in the other reservoirs. Changes that put carbon gases into the atmosphere result in warmer temperatures on Earth.

Il ciclo del carbonio

Source: Earth Observatory Nasa

Date: April 2016

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