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Education: Gallery

Carbon Cycling in the Ocean & Atmosphere (00:01:08)
[08-Oct-09] Carbon is the basic building block of life, and these unique atoms are found everywhere on Earth. Carbon makes up Earth's plants and animals, and carbon is also stored in the ocean, the atmosphere, and the crust of the planet. A carbon atom could spend millions of years moving through Earth in a complex cycle.

Understanding the carbon cycle - and how it is changing - is key to understanding Earth's changing climate. On land, plants remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Animals eat plants and either breathe out the carbon, or it moves up the food chain. When plants and animals die and decay, they transfer carbon back to the soil. Moving offshore, the ocean holds huge amounts of carbon - about 50 times the amount we find in the atmosphere.

Stacey Boland: "The ocean is sometimes called a carbon sink, meaning that it absorbs, or takes up carbon from the atmosphere. It takes up carbon through physical and biological processes." View full movie here. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.