There are many ways for an atom of carbon to move from one place to another on Earth. This is called the carbon cycle, and it’s important for scientists to understand how this works in order to better protect our planet from climate change.
Before you start your Carbon Cycle Gizmo, you’ll want to learn a few things about carbon and how it moves through the different parts of our ecosystem. To help you get started, take a look at the diagram above. In this illustration, you can see where an atom of carbon might go next, with glowing blue areas representing possible locations it could go.
First, let’s take a look at how carbon gets into the atmosphere in the first place. This begins with plants in photosynthesis, where the atoms of carbon and oxygen are combined with sunlight and water to make energy from sugars.
Plants then transfer this carbon to their roots, which use the energy of photosynthesis to grow and reproduce. Once the plant dies, it releases some of this carbon into the soil and eventually into the atmosphere.
The same goes for animals, including humans. Animals take in carbon dioxide from the air during respiration, and release it when they breathe out a corresponding amount of oxygen. They also produce methane, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Methane can be produced by both bacteria and animals, such as cattle, during their digestion of food and decomposition. Methane emissions are a big concern because they contribute to greenhouse gases that can affect the earth’s temperature and climate.
Land animals also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions because of their grazing, which can deplete soil nutrients and increase the amount of waste that carries carbon into the environment. These animal wastes can be decomposed by fungi and other microbes, which can release methane into the atmosphere.
Humans can also affect carbon dioxide levels by their farming practices, which involve the production of large numbers of animals for food. The amount of carbon dioxide produced by these herds can have a significant impact on the global climate.
Lastly, land animals can produce methane through combustion, which is the process by which organic matter is burned in an effort to generate energy. This occurs naturally in some forests and can also be caused by human activity, such as agriculture or logging.
This is a great way to understand how the carbon cycle works and how it affects our planet’s climate. Just make sure you don’t overdo it! A little bit of methane is good, but too much can lead to catastrophic changes.