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Carbon Cycle Research Paper

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Carbon plus energy from the sun are the fundamentals for life on earth. How carbon moves between the atmosphere and oceans and on land among the plants, animals and microbes is the unique combination of physics and biology; elegant in its simplicity of principle and fascinating in its complexity in nature.

Here is the carbon cycle from the view of a carbon atom innocently attached to two oxygen atoms as a molecule of carbon dioxide:

For eons the atom floats as part of a gas in the atmosphere moving on the currents generated by the energy from the sun. By chance the carbon dioxide molecule passes close enough to the ground to move through a stomata into a leaf on the highest branch of a forest tree. The molecule is sucked into
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Instead it transfers among the bacteria and is eventually consumed by a mosquito larvae that emerges as an adult that is eaten by a flycatcher that defecates it in a batch of uric acid to the soil where a whole new set of decomposer organisms get to work.

Through these cycles within cycles, the carbon atom stays out of the atmosphere, moving among the myriad of organisms that make up the biosphere.

It might do this for hundreds of years before returning to where the sequence began as a carbon dioxide molecule. It might equally become fixed into carbon compounds in soil and stay there for thousands of years or become sediment and stay buried for eons.

The earth can be viewed as a series of carbon pools of different sizes and fluxes of different rates. These transfers of carbon have both created the opportunity for evolution and been modified by the biological complexity that evolution has produced.

Carbon atoms in carbon dioxide molecules also enter the oceans to be used by countless billions of microscopic diatoms, plankton and shellfish. Some of this carbon sinks to the sediment eventually to form carbonate
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