What is the carbon cycle?
Carbon is present in the sea, on land and in the air and through many different processes is constantly exchanged. This continuous exchange is called the carbon cycle. This natural system of carbon exchange between land, sea and air has always had a natural balance.
However, when we burn fossil fuels, change land use from forests to farms or create more carbon dioxide through factories, we are releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby disrupting the natural balance and contributing to the greenhouse effect.
Steps of the carbon cycle
- Carbon exists in the atmosphere.
- Plants draw this carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and change some of it. The rest is turned into carbohydrates.
- Animals eat the carbohydrates (plants) and return the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by breathing.
- As plants and animals die and decay, they release carbon dioxide into the soil, which is turned into fossil fuels.
- When fossil fuels are burned (oil, coal), carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.
- The cycle repeats.