The carbon cycle in living beings

The carbon cycle in living beingsCarbon is a non-metallic chemical element whose symbol is C. It is one of the most important and abundant elements in the Earth’s crust, and is part of all living beings. Thanks to its versatility and the ability of its atoms to join the main bioelements, different combinations are formed that are the basis of the molecules of organisms.

In short, carbon is the main component of organic matter. In principle, carbon is found in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2).

What is the Carbon Cycle

The carbon cycle is defined as a biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the different organisms on Earth through various reactions between the biosphere (sum of ecosystems), the lithosphere (solid surface layer of the planet), the hydrosphere (water under and on the surface of the planet) and the atmosphere (air).

This exchange allows carbon to return to the atmosphere and return to living beings. See other biogeochemical cycles. The largest carbon reserves are found in the oceans, as they contain more than 60 times the C that the atmosphere contains.

What does it consist of? It is a complex and non-linear process, that is, many of the reactions by which carbon is exchanged occur at the same time. To understand it, we must start from the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is the main deposit of C.

Carbon dioxide as a waste product from the respiration of living beings and other combustion processes enters the atmosphere.

Some geological processes, such as volcanic eruptions and gas emissions from geysers, release a large amount of carbon, contained as carbon dioxide, into the air.

Plants in the Carbon Cycle

Plants absorb CO2 from the air through the stomata of their leaves to carry out their photosynthesis process. Once the compound is inside, the CO2 and water captured from the soil are synthesized with the help of chlorophyll to produce sugars. Plants then synthesize these sugars into complex carbon compounds in their tissues.

  • A small part of the CO2 returns to the atmosphere as waste from plant respiration, another remains in the soil and another passes to living beings that feed on plants.
  • Those animals that consume plants also ingest carbon compounds and these are converted into organic matter, that is, meat. When they breathe, they exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product from gas exchange.
  • Plant- eating animals serve as food for others: carnivores. Then, carbon also passes into their body and is useful for forming their own organs, bones, tissues, etc. Of course, they also release carbon dioxide when breathing, which goes into the atmosphere.

The carbon cycle in living beings

  • Naturally, living things die at some point. Small decomposer organisms (such as bacteria and fungi) feed on the bodies and dissolve them into smaller parts that remain in the soil. At the same time, they release carbon dioxide.
  • Through their roots, plants absorb soil particles containing carbon, and this is then passed into their structure.
  • When photosynthesis occurs , plants release CO2 and it returns to the atmosphere.
  • Sometimes organic matter remains in the soil without decomposing or being used by plants or animals, and for thousands or millions of years it remains in the lithosphere in the form of coal, oil and natural gas, and in coral reefs and limestone rock. . The first 3 are fossil fuels that can subsequently be burned.
  • In the sea, calcium carbonate from the shells of some animals , such as snails, passes to the seabed when they die and sometimes forms limestone rock. If it is exposed to the open air, it degrades and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plant photosynthesis and dissolution in the oceans remove carbon dioxide from the air, which is returned to it through the respiration of living beings, the burning of fossil fuels
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