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Carbon cycle

• The Biosphere contains a complex mixture of carbon compounds in a
dynamic equilibrium of Formation, Transformation And
• The producers, through the process of Photosynthesis, reduce the
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to organic carbon.
• This then passes through consumers and decomposers, then usually
re-enters the atmosphere through respiration and decomposition.
• Additional return from producers and consumers occur through the
non - biological process of combustion.
• Even though the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is of major
concern, in fact, the atmosphere reservoir for carbon is the smallest
and the oceans hold the largest amount, serving as a vast “sink” for
CO2 .
• Apart from the daily production and consumption of carbon, the earth
has significant reserves of bound carbon in the form of inorganic
deposits such as limestone and organic fossil fuel deposits consisting
of mainly coal and petroleum.
• Due to the combustion of fossil fuels, weathering and dissolution of
carbonate rocks, and volcanic activity, some of the bound carbon
returns to the atmospheric aquatic reservoir as carbon dioxide or
carbonic acid.
 Typically reservoirs for carbon (expressed in billion tonnes)2 are :
• Oceans – 40,000
• Fossil Fuels, Rocks and Minerals – 5,000-10,000
• Vegetation and Soil – 2,000
• Atmosphere – 750
• Thus, the oceans store more than 50 times as much as the
atmosphere. Human activity releases roughly 7.0 billion tonnes of
carbon (in the form of CO2) into the atmosphere every year.
• Out of the 7.0 billion tonnes, only 3.0 billion tonnes accumulate in the
atmosphere and the rest is taken up by the Oceans and the Terrestrial
• The net amount of 3.0 billion tonnes added to the atmosphere each
year is a tiny fraction of the total held by the atmosphere, it assumes
significance because the natural processes and the environment
maintain a dynamic equilibrium.

• Any global event that alters the exchange of CO2 between the
atmosphere and the ocean can significantly affect the concentration of
CO2 in the atmosphere.
• Studies have shown that plants tends to grow faster in a CO2enriched
atmosphere, but this benefit is offset by denudation of forests by man
thereby decreasing nature’s ability to remove the excess CO2 from the
atmosphere. As a result, a detectable increase in the concentration of
atmospheric CO2 has been observed.