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Carbon-Oxygen Cycle

Carbon-Oxygen Cycle

Carbon and oxygen are independent of each other, but are very closely connected as well as interdependent on each other. The following article will cover information that will help you understand the carbon-oxygen cycle in detail.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Life on planet Earth continues due to the presence of organic as well as inorganic nutrients present in the nature. It is very important for these nutrients to be continuously recycled. If this doesn't happen, all the nutritive resources in the world will get extinguished completely. No nutrients means no life on Earth. So, in order for the life cycle of every living being, unicellular or multicellular organism to sustain, recycling of the nutrients is very important. One of the important cycles is the carbon-oxygen cycle.

The Process of Carbon-Oxygen Cycle

There are four steps involved in the completion of this cycle. These methods are discussed below:

Plants undergo photosynthesis that helps them produce energy and food for themselves. During this process, plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and absorb water (H2O) with the help of their roots. The chlorophyll present in the leaves and the energy from the sun, helps convert CO2 and H2O into Oxygen O2, sugar and water vapor. Oxygen (O2) is released by the plants as a by-product into the atmosphere.

Formula for Photosynthesis
CO2 + H2O + Light ----------> (CH2O) + O2

The carbon dioxide from air and water from the soil in presence of light (energy) is taken by the plants and converted into carbohydrates and oxygen as by-products.

Just as plants carry out photosynthesis, animals carry out respiration. Respiration occurs when animals take in oxygen from the air along with simple sugars from their food. This helps in release of carbon dioxide, water and energy from the animal body. During cellular respiration, animals require O2 while inhalation. When they exhale the waste product of cellular respiration, they release CO2 into the atmosphere again.

Formula for Respiration

(CH2O) + O2 ----------> CO2 + H2O + Energy

The carbohydrates taken from food like plants or carbon-based compounds along with oxygen are converted to carbon dioxide which is released into the air along with water and energy during respiration.

It is a process of burning that occurs naturally in the nature. For example, volcanic eruptions are natural combustion processes where carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere due to burning. Nowadays, there are many environmental pollutants that cause an increase in the amount of CO2 in the air. These include cars, factories, burning of woods, coals, nuclear energy, gas, etc. This irresponsible combustion and release of excessive carbon dioxide and other harmful gases in the environment is the major contributing factor for today's global warming.

After the death of any living organism, i.e., unicellular or multicellular organism, it gets decomposed. This decomposition means insects, fungi and bacteria (together called decomposers), help in breaking down the cellular components of the dead organism into its basic elements. These elements include water, calcium, nitrogen, carbon and oxygen. Thus, decomposers help in release of oxygen and carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere as their metabolic waste products.

The entire cycle can be summarized as, plants taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen during photosynthesis. This oxygen released is taken up by animals who release carbon dioxide after carrying out respiration. Thus, the recycling of carbon and oxygen in the atmosphere will continue as long as respiration and photosynthesis occur. This also proves that, to sustain life, plants are very important as they are the major contributors to the amount of oxygen present in the atmosphere. Although both cycles occur independently, they are, in a small way, interconnected to each other.