Essay on the Carbon Cycle. During aerobic degradation, % of carbon of organic residue is utilised as a source of energy, releasing CO 2 in atmosphere. But in anaerobic condition, about % carbon is released as methane (CH 4). Methane again goes back to nature as CO 2 through oxidation. The carbon cycle can be defined as the continuous biological process through which the carbon is exchanged between the environment and the organisms. It also refers to the thermonuclear reactions which are brought about by nucleus of a carbon atom when it absorbs protons. The Carbon Cycle Step 3. Animals feed on the plants. Thus passing the carbon compounds along the food chain. Most of the carbon these animals consume however is exhaled as carbon dioxide. This is through the process of respiration. The animals and plants then eventually die.
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This essay and review of research into the carbon cycle and its effect upon the biosphere, more specifically upon the realm of plants and vegetation, is intended to provide a synopsis of evidence and information that is generally being neglected in mainstream discussions of Anthropogenic Global Warming AGW and to provide an enhanced and more realistic perspective on the effects of increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide upon the world of nature and the world of society, which, of course, are inextricably linked.
I will begin the review by introducing two diagrams from relatively recent textbooks on Environmental Science that depict the Carbon Cycle throughout the various planetary sources, such as animal and plant respiration, volcanic eruptions etc. The basic numbers have not changed appreciably since the publication of these textbooks.
Take note of the avenues of exchange from earth to atmosphere to ocean. The reservoir of the atmosphere is the one that is currently the cause for greatest concern due to the greenhouse effect being intensified by increasing concentrations of CO 2 resulting from the consumption of fossil fuels.
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You will note that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is given as gigatons. You will also note that gigatons are consumed in the process of photosynthesis by land plants.
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Take special note of the amount in the ocean: 38, gigatons, or 50 times the amount in the atmosphere. The soil at any time stores about gigatons.
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In the ocean the CO 2 is taken up by a variety of marine organisms that have the ability to precipitate calcium carbonate CaCO 3 from seawater. This calcium carbonate forms the shells, or exoskeletons, of creatures such as scallops, bryozoans, foraminifera and coccolithophores.
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When these creatures expire, their shells drift down and consolidate on the ocean floor where they are eventually lithified under pressure into limestone, chalk and marble, to become part of the lithosphere or rocky crust of the Earth.
This is the greatest of all the reservoirs of carbon dioxide storage. This chart does not show the estimated amount of CO 2 stored in the lithosphere but it is enormous. Before going to the next graphic note that the amount generated through both human and natural combustion is 6 gigatons.
The next graphic also depicts the generalized global carbon cycle. It contains additional interesting details. Here fossil fuel burning accounts for 5.
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This is one-half gigaton less than the preceding chart, presumably the one-half gigaton difference being the result of natural combustion and volcanism which is not included in this number.
Storage in shallow ocean water is almost the same in both charts; fossil fuel deposits are shown to contain about gigatons of CO 2 while the sedimentary rock reservoir contains upward of million gigatons!
This is a clear implication that the ocean acts as a powerful pump, constantly extracting CO 2 from the atmosphere and ultimately sequestering it into carbonate sedimentary rocks, where it remains for a very long time. Finally, note that we have an additional interesting piece of information in the second graphic. The idea of a missing carbon dioxide sink began showing up in the scientific literature in the early-to-mids after several decades of air sampling and analysis.
The program of atmospheric sampling dates back to when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA began collecting air samples in Pyrex flasks, analyzing the contents and archiving the findings. In it was expanded again after the Department of Energy DOE started a program with the intention of looking at the longer term consequences of increased atmospheric CO 2 concentrations.
One goal of this research effort was the development of models to determine the partitioning of fossil fuel derived CO 2 throughout the three principle global reservoirs: the oceans, the atmosphere and the biosphere. By a total of 23 sampling sites had been established. A full description of the sampling and analysis methodology can be found in [Komhyr, W.
D3, pp. Disinclined to believe the ocean was consuming that much they speculated that there must be a substantial, but as of yet, unidentified terrestrial sink. The mechanism of this C sink in unknown; its magnitude appears to be as large as 2. In , an article appeared in the Australian Journal of Botany by J.
Taylor and J. Lloyd describing their analysis of global patterns of carbon sequestration. These samples were measured for concentrations of Carbon 13, a stable isotope of carbon. The challenge now is to identify those processes that would cause the terrestrial biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide in such large quantities. A small sample of some of the work follows. So added CO 2 remains in the atmosphere. However, substantial amounts are taken up by the oceans and land biosphere, attenuating the atmospheric increase.
Man is currently adding CO 2 to the atmosphere at the rate of about 6. If all this CO 2 remained in the atmosphere, the CO 2 concentration of air would rise by about 3. The difference between fossil-fuel input and accumulation, today as in the past, is attributable to the CO 2 uptake by the oceans and by the growth of the land biosphere, as demonstrated by C.
Keeling in a series of seminal publications. Here we learn several things. We learn that in addition to fossil fuel combustion, carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere through biomass burning. We are informed that the rise in carbon dioxide based solely on anthropogenic emissions should be occurring at 3.
The measured increase, however, is only 1. In this study it was found that only The remaining I should also point out that more recent studies suggest that cement production actually results in a net carbon dioxide sink rather than source, because, even though CO 2 is released during cement production, concrete, it turns out, reabsorbs even more of it over the long term.
During this same period, the atmospheric burden of CO 2 increased by only 2. The balance of the CO 2 was taken up by the oceans and the land biosphere. In this report we are given a somewhat different perspective on the same situation as discussed in the Bender, Battle and Keeling article.
There the total annual amounts are given as 6. An article by Steven C. Science , Vol. The reason for this discrepancy is that increasing amounts of anthropogenic CO 2 are being removed by forests and other components of the biosphere.
It is estimated that more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to 25 percent of the carbon emitted by fossil fuel combustion — are sequestered by forests each year. Here is a remarkable fact: One-quarter of the annual amount of fossil fuel sourced carbon dioxide was being consumed by forests alone. What effect could this process be having upon the forests of the world? I will come back to that question directly.
Liu, Zaihua, Wolfgang Dreybrodt, Haijing Wang A new direction in effective accounting for the atmospheric CO 2 budget: Considering the combined action of carbonate dissolution, the global water cycle and photosynthetic uptake of DIC [dissolved inorganic carbon] by aquatic organisms : Earth Science Reviews , vol.
Anthropogenic activities have clearly altered the global carbon cycle and significant gaps exist in our understanding of this cycle. Roughly half of the CO 2 emitted by burning fossil fuels remains in the atmosphere, and the other half is absorbed by the oceans and the terrestrial biosphere.
The partitioning between these two sinks is the subject of considerable debate. Without robust accounting for the fate of CO 2 leaving the atmosphere predictions of future CO 2 concentrations will remain uncertain.
If the future CO 2 concentrations are uncertain, how can any projections as to climatological effects be certain?
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As one learns more about the actual science involved in this debate about carbon dioxide driven climate change the more it becomes apparent that uncertainty is the preeminent trait of our present knowledge of global change on all levels, and the constant refrain that the science is settled are seen to be downright duplicitous.
Plants Love Carbon Dioxide. So, it is apparent that Nature has the ability to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the global atmosphere. It is this uptake of CO 2 that removes at least half the amount that is being emitted through fossil fuel combustion.
Whatever the exact distribution of CO 2 into the various sinks it is clear that a substantial portion of it is being consumed by the biosphere in the process of photosynthesis.
It is also apparent to many researchers that if not continuously replenished the ocean alone would relatively quickly sequester so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that it would severely affect photosynthetic processes.
Many workers in the field have, over the years, commented on the paucity of CO 2 in the atmosphere and the positive role it plays in biological processes. A couple of examples will serve to demonstrate the attitude about carbon dioxide before its demonization as the driver of global warming disaster. Near the end of the 19 th Century T. Chamberlin, one of the most influential geologists of that era and founder of the Journal of Geology , wrote:.
As a constituent of the atmosphere it is as necessary to the maintenance of life as oxygen because it is the food of plants and they in turn are the food of animals.
Its peculiar competency to retain the heat of the sun renders it a decisive factor in the maintenance of that measurable constancy and geniality of temperature upon which the existence of life depends. It is a leading agency in the disintegration of crystalline rock and is a necessary factor in other geologic changes. It is an essential link in a chain of vital processes which involve all the constituents of the atmosphere.
It is the least chemical constituent of a mixture that determines the amount of reaction. A loss of nitrogen or oxygen equal to. Here Chamberlin points out the fact that even a miniscule decline in the relative concentration of atmospheric CO 2 would have serious consequences for global plant life. Norman, published an article in in the journal American Scientist.
Norman had studied extensively into the relationship between photosynthesis and carbon dioxide, publishing dozens of papers from the s through the s. He addressed the paucity of atmospheric carbon dioxide relative to its importance as an essential plant nutrient. The chemical engineer of whom we spoke earlier might be a little taken aback at being told that his only raw materials would be carbon dioxide and water.
If one added, however, that the carbon dioxide would be available only at a concentration of 3 parts in 10, by volume, diluted with an excess of nitrogen and oxygen, he might appear troubled, because to him that would mean the handling of vast quantities of air to extract the carbon dioxide needed.
The plant can do this. Let us not underestimate the stupendous quantities of carbon dioxide that are incorporated into vegetation.
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Figures of the order of 1. Perhaps one-thirtieth to one-fiftieth of this may be accounted for by economic crops, or plants used by man. To grow a good field of corn which will yield bushels, about 20, pounds carbon dioxide is needed to provide about pounds for the organic structures of the crop. During the growing season, therefore, the corn plants on one acre must deplete an enormous volume of air to meet their needs for carbon dioxide.
No less than 21, tons of air are needed to supply 20, pounds of carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since Norman wrote this article has increased to where it is now close to 4 parts in 10,, by volume. This is still a miniscule amount when considered as a portion of the total atmosphere. I will return to the question of the effects of reduced atmospheric concentrations later in this essay.