The global carbon cycle is a biogeochemical process that involves the transfer of carbon between the Earth's land, water, and atmosphere. This process is vital for life on Earth and has a significant impact on our planet's climate. In this article, we will explain how the carbon cycle works and discuss its importance for our environment and economy.
Carbon Cycle Definition
The global carbon cycle is the process that moves carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the universe, between microbes, plants, and animals; minerals in the earth; and the atmosphere. Without the presence of carbon on our planet, life would not be possible. The biogeochemical cycle of carbon involves three main processes: photosynthesis, respiration, and decomposition.
Photosynthesis is the process that produces organic matter from carbon dioxide and water. This process is performed by plants, algae, and some bacteria. During photosynthesis, these organisms convert sunlight into chemical energy that they use to produce glucose from carbon dioxide and water. Glucose is then used by the plants to create other organic molecules such as cellulose, fats, and proteins. Some of the glucose that is produced during photosynthesis is used by the plants for respiration, while the rest is stored in the plant tissue.
Respiration is the process of releasing energy from organic matter. This process occurs in all organisms, including plants. During respiration, organisms convert glucose and other organic molecules into carbon dioxide and water. Carbon dioxide is then released into the atmosphere.
Decomposition is the process of breaking down organic matter into simpler molecules. This process is performed by bacteria and fungi. During decomposition, these organisms convert organic matter into carbon dioxide, water, and other nutrients that can be used by plants.
The global carbon cycle is a vital process that helps to regulate the Earth's climate. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it traps heat in the atmosphere and causes the Earth's temperature to rise. By sequestering carbon in plants and other organic matter, the carbon cycle helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigate climate change.
Changes In The Biogeochemical Cycle of Carbon
Humans are highly responsible for even the most minute changes to the carbon cycle. In fact, we play a major role in disrupting the carbon cycle through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels or land development. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rapidly rising; it is already considerably greater than at any time in the last 800,000 years.
This increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is having a major impact on the climate and life overall. Carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere, causing the Earth's temperature to rise. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect, and it is responsible for global warming.
Global warming refers to the gradual increase in the Earth's average surface temperature. This increase is largely due to the increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And the effects of global warming can range from melting glaciers and sea ice to more extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts. And more extreme weather events can quickly become a major risk to life on Earth.
How The Global Carbon Cycle Impacts The Ocean
As the planet gets warmer, the delicate balance of the natural carbon cycle is changed, and excess carbon production often ends up in the ocean. When this happens, it causes the water it becomes less alkaline, and as a result, can damage marine life. Moreover, warmer ocean waters can hold less carbon, and this means more will end up in our atmosphere. Around 30% of the CO2 that humans have dumped into the air, has actually found its way into the ocean via direct chemical exchange. And dissolving CO2 in the ocean creates carbonic acid that makes the water more acidic or less alkaline. Since 1750, ocean surface pH levels have dropped by 0.1, a 30% change in acidity.
Coral reefs are some of the most important ecosystems in the ocean, providing homes for 25% of all marine species. Over 4,000 species of fish make coral reefs their home. Yet corals are very sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels. And as a result, they are at risk of being damaged or even destroyed by climate change. Sadly the damage to coral reefs around the world is being observed as a direct result of global warming and ocean acidification, which is going to have a massive effect on marine life food chains.
What Can We Do To Help?
Now that we've explained the carbon cycle definition, it's time to talk about how we can help keep this natural process in balance. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that we can do to help the carbon cycle and reduce our impact on the climate. One way is to simply consume less energy. This can be done by making your home more energy-efficient or by using public transportation.
Another way to help is to plant trees and take part in reforestation projects. Trees help to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen back into the air. They also help to regulate the climate by providing shade and evaporative cooling.
For businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact, carbon emissions can be reduced, or you can take part in a carbon credit program. Carbon credits are a unit of measurement that represents the reduction of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent. These credits can then be traded in a carbon market.
Carbon credits are one way of putting a price on carbon and providing an incentive for businesses to proactively invest in low-carbon technologies. Carbon markets exist all over the world, and some are regional while others are global. The most well-known carbon market is the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which was launched in 2005.
Whatever way you choose to reduce carbon emissions, the first step is calculating them. Click the link below to find out more.