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CARBON
Introduction to Carbon and the Carbon Cycle
LEARNING TARGETS
 Students will be able to describe Carbon and its importance to Earth.
 Students will be able to detail the Carbon cycle, and provide comparisons
and similarities between short and long term Carbon movement.
 NGSS
 HS-ESS2-6: Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon
among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.
CARBON
 What do you know about it?
 Fourth most abundant element in the universe.
 Absolutely essential to life on Earth.
Presence or absence helps define if molecules are
organic or inorganic.
Every organism needs carbon for structure, energy, or
both.
 Many diverse forms, from gas (CO2) to diamonds.
CYCLES
Periodic, repetitive sequence of events in a
process that plays out over time, or keeps going
on indefinitely.
Familiar types of cycles
Water cycle, nitrogen cycle, phosphorous cycle,
rock cycle
Carbon Cycle
BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES
 Energy flows through an ecosystem and is dissipated as
heat, but chemical elements are recycled.
 The ways in which an element—or compound such as
water—moves between its various living and nonliving
forms and locations in the biosphere is called a
biogeochemical cycle.
 Biogeochemical cycles important to living organisms
include the water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and
sulfur cycles.
CARBON CYCLE
 Movement of carbon between the atmosphere, hydrosphere,
geosphere, and the biosphere.
 Reservoirs – Storage houses for large amounts of Carbon.
 Atmosphere
 Hydrosphere
 Geosphere – Sediments and rocks
 Biosphere – Land plants/animals and aquatic
plants/animals
 Two types of Carbon Cycles, Slow and Fast
Slow Carbon Cycle
 Carbon moves between rocks, soil, ocean and atmosphere.
 Takes between 100-200 million years.
 Movement of Carbon between atmosphere and lithosphere
 Atmospheric Carbon combines with water to form weak acid (carbonic
acid).
 Falls to surface as rain, dissolving rocks (chemical weathering), releasing
mineral ions.
 Ions travel to ocean through rivers, where calcium ions combine with
bicarbonate ions to form calcium carbonate.
 Most calcium carbonate is made by shell-building organisms (corals)
and plankton.
SLOW CARBON CYCLE, cont.
 Calcium carbonate organisms die, and sink to ocean floor.
 Over time, layers of shells and sediment are cemented together,
turning to rock.
 Carbon is stored in stone (limestone and its derivatives).
 80% of Carbon-containing rock is made this way.
 Other 20% comes from living things (organic carbon), that has been
embedded in mud
 Heat and pressure compress mud, forms sedimentary rock
(shale), but also can become oil, coal, or natural gas.
SLOW CARBON CYCLE, cont.
 Seafloor carbon pushed deeper into Earth through
subduction.
 Heats up, and eventually is Carbon is released through
volcanic activity (eruptions, seeps, vents).
 Also includes exchanges between oceans and
atmosphere.
CO2 vented by the ocean at the surface.
 Slow Carbon Cycle = Geologic Carbon Cycle.
FAST CARBON CYCLE
 Measured in a lifespan.
 Carbon is able to form many bonds, up to four per
atom.
Seemingly endless variety of complex organic
molecules, including long chains.
Bonds in long carbon chains contain lots of energy.
When chains are broken, energy is released. Excellent
fuel for all living things.
FAST CARBON CYCLE, cont.
Main ways Carbon is exchanged in Fast Carbon
Cycle.
Photosynthesis
Respiration
Also includes decomposition and combustion
(forest fires).
Fast Carbon Cycle = Biological Carbon Cycle
CARBON SINKS AND SOURCES
 Carbon Sink
Absorbs more Carbon than it emits.
 Carbon Source
Emits more Carbon than it absorbs.
 The amount of Carbon in a reservoir depends on the
balance that exists between the sinks and the sources.