Living organisms experience a regular cyclic movement of matter of which they are composed. This cyclic flow of matter is referred to as the biogeochemical cycle. Through the cyclic flow, the resources utilized by the organisms are not lost but end up in locations that are out of reach of the organisms. In class, three cycles of matter were covered. These cycles are nutrient, nitrogen, and carbon. This section focuses on the carbon cycle and illustrates the importance of the cycle.
Just like nutrients and nitrogen, carbon is an important element for all living organisms. Parts of a living organism such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids are made up of carbon. The earth’s atmosphere contains 0.03% of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, water and limestone rocks contain carbon in the form of carbonates and bicarbonates. Notably, the carbon cycle commences when plants, algae, and cyan-bacteria through the photosynthesis process utilize carbon dioxide. Through this process, plants are able to synthesize glucose. Thereafter, glucose is used in the synthesis of complex sugar compounds. Carbon dioxide enters the next tropic level through the food chain. The above is achieved when animals feed on plant products. As a result, carbon dioxide accumulates in the bodies of these animals and is released back into the environment through the aerobic respiration process. Equally, carbon is released back into the environment when decomposing agents prey on the dead plants and animals.
Occasionally, the carbon in living organisms is not recycled back into the environment. In such circumstances, carbon is stored in wood and oils of unicellular marine organisms and manages to stay for hundreds of years. Fossil fuels are huge repositories of carbon compounds. The carbon in these substances returns to the environment through combustion. On the other hand, carbon in limestone rocks returns to the environment through the weathering process. As illustrated above, the carbon cycle is vital to all living organisms. As such, photosynthesis enables plants to synthesize their own food. Equally, decomposition enables the earth to dispose of its waste. Through the carbon cycle, the earth has been able to balance the amount of carbon available in the atmosphere and oceans.