What Is Carbon?
• An element
• The basis of life of earth
• Found in rocks, oceans, atmosphere, and all living
• The same carbon atoms are used repeatedly on earth.
They cycle between the earth and the atmosphere.
Plants Use Carbon Dioxide
• Plants pull carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
• Using sunlight with the CO2 they make glucose.
• This process is photosynthesis.
• The carbon can be used by the plant (food) and used
to build the plant (cellulose).
• Also gives off CO2 from cellular respiration.
Animals Eat Plants
• When organisms eat plants, they take in the carbon and
some of it becomes part of their own bodies.
• They generate CO2 from cellular respiration(break down of
glucose) and exhale this CO2 into the atmosphere.
Animals Eat Plants
• When organisms eat animals, they take in the carbon
and some of it becomes part of their own bodies.
• They generate CO2 from cellular respiration (break down
of glucose) and exhale this CO2 into the atmosphere.
Plants and Animal Die
• When plants and animals die, most of their bodies are
decomposed and carbon atoms are returned to the
• Some are not decomposed fully and end up as deposits
underground (oil, coal, etc.= fossil fuels=Carbon)
Carbon Slowly Returns to Atmosphere
• Carbon in rocks and underground deposits is
released very slowly into the atmosphere.
• This process takes many years.
Carbon in Oceans
• Additional carbon is stored in the ocean.
• CO2 passes into the water from the atmosphere.
• Plants & phytoplankton use for photosynthesis.
• Many animals pull carbon from water to use in shells, etc.
• Animals die and carbon substances are deposited at the
bottom of the ocean.
• Oceans contain earth’s largest store of carbon.
Burning wood and Fossil Fuels
• Releases carbon compounds in air, water, and soil
* one gallon of gas burned in a car=19lbs of CO2
(Who Killed the Electric Car, 2004)
• Fossil fuels release carbon stores very slowly
• Burning anything releases more carbon into
atmosphere — especially fossil fuels
• Increased carbon dioxide in atmosphere increases
• Fewer plants mean less CO2 removed from
What We Need to Do
• Burn less, especially fossil fuels
• Promote plant life, especially trees