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close this bookBasic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1993, 151 p.)
close this folderEcological basics
View the documentEcosystem degradation
View the documentHabitat and niche
View the documentThe food chain
View the documentBiological magnification
View the documentNitrogen cycle
View the documentSociety and the carbon-oxygen cycle
View the documentHealth consequences of environmental degradation
View the documentPopulation and the environment

Society and the carbon-oxygen cycle

Society and the carbon-oxygen cycle

Society and the carbon-oxygen cycle

· Carbon and oxygen are two of the most important elements needed by all living organisms.

· The cycling of carbon and oxygen is closely tied with energy flows in the ecosystem.

· Through the process of photosynthesis, green plants convert carbon from the air (in the form of carbon dioxide) into plans tissue (carbohydrates).

· In the process of respiration, oxygen is absorbed by living organisms from the environment and is utilized by living cells as an oxidizing agent. Carbohydrates are broken down to carbon dioxide and water and released again to the atmosphere.

· In nature, the processes of photosynthesis and respiration balance each other. For a long period of time, the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere remained at 2 l percent while the concentration of carbon dioxide stabilized at 0.03 percent.

· Present human activities release increasingly more amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the balance between these two gases is upset.

· Burning of fossil fuels in automobiles, power plants and industry has resulted in the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.

· Large quantities of carbon dioxide are also released when agricultural residues are burned.

· The forest is an important carbon sink. Forest conversion means removal of a large volume of vegetation that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Burning of forests directly releases carbon into the atmosphere.

· This increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may cause global climate change with potentially great repercussions for all living organisms, especially humans.