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The Carbon Cycle

Lecture and activity to college and upper level high school students about the carbon cycle.
by

Katherine LaCommare

on 16 October 2013

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Transcript of The Carbon Cycle

Carbon is a chemical nutrient.
Carbon cycles between "reservoirs" via "processes".
What are some of the carbon compounds that are important in our environment?
Make a list.
Carbon is a basic building block of carbohydrates.
Carbon is a basic building block of fats, proteins and DNA.
CO2 (carbon dioxide) is a carbon-based gas in the atmosphere.
Fossil fuels are hydro-carbon molecules that humans use for energy.
Reservoirs - temporary storage pools of chemical nutrients
For example, the atmosphere is a reservoir because it contains (CO2)
The Carbon Cycle
Carbon
C
6
12.01
Carbon
Remember,
Energy flows, nutrients cycle
Thinking about your list of carbon molecules, make a list of other carbon reservoirs.
Carbon Dioxide - Atmosphere
They store C as carbohydrates, fats, DNA and other molecules.
Plants and Animals are reservoirs
Oil, coal, natural gas are hydrocarbon molecules that we burn for energy.
Fossil Fuels are reservoirs.
It stores dissolved CO2. Marine plants and animals store carbon. (Just like terrestrial plants and animals). It stores carbon in its sediments (limestone and dolomite.)
What processes capture and release carbon from the ocean?
The ocean is a reservoir.
They store C as carbohydrates, fats, DNA and other molecules.
Carbon moves between resevoirs via processes.
What processes capture and release C from plants and animals?
That's right.
Photosynthesis converts sunlight, water and CO2 into glucose - C6H12O6. (It captures and stores carbon.)
Respiration releases the carbon from glucose (carbohydrates) as CO2.
Forest fires release CO2.
CO2 gets dissolved in the ocean through diffusion.
Like terrestrial plants and animals, producers capture carbon, consumers release carbon.
In the ocean, when plankton dies, it sinks to the bottom and gets trapped in the sediments. Ocean sediments trap carbon.
When plants and animals get trapped in sediments and are exposed to millions of years of geological processes (high temperatures and pressures), they become fossil fuels.
Review:
The First Law of Thermodynamics
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
Law of Conservation of Matter
Natural reservoirs and processes.
Make a list of the ways that humans may impact these reservoirs and processes.
Deforestation
Burning Fossil Fuels
Make a box and arrow model (concept map) that illustrates the carbon cycle.
Do this in your notebook.
Plankton!
Understanding carbon and the carbon cycle is key to understanding global warming.
Full transcript