Carbon Cycle: Definition and Meaning and Steps in Carbon Cycle (For CBSE, ICSE, IAS, NET, NRA 2022)

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Definition and Meaning of Carbon Cycle

  • The Carbon Cycle can be defined as the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.
  • All known life on earth is based on carbon.
  • This cycle was discovered by Antoine Lavoisier and Joseph Priestley and popularized by Humphry Davy.
  • Carbon is the main component of biological compounds.
  • It is also a major component of many minerals such as that of limestone.
Movement of Carbon between Land, Atmosphere, and Ocean

Steps in Carbon Cycle

  • Plants absorb carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis.
  • The animals thereafter consume these plants following which the carbon gets bioacculmated into their bodies.
  • The carbon is released back into the atmosphere as soon as the animals and plants die and starts decomposing.
  • That carbon which does not get released into the atmosphere eventually becomes fossil fuels.
  • The fossil fuels then are used for man-made activities leading to release of more amount of carbon back into the atmosphere.

Carbon Cycle on Land and Ocean


  • In the atmosphere, carbon is present in the form of carbon dioxide.
  • Carbon enters the atmosphere through processes such as respiration and burning of fossil fuels.
  • The photosynthesis process involves the absorption of by plants to produce carbohydrates.


  • Carbon sink is when the ocean takes in more carbon than it releases.
  • The marine animals convert carbon to calcium carbonate.
  • The raw building is formed which is required to create hard shells.
  • The body of the organisms with calcium carbonate decomposes leaving behind the hard shells following which they are accumulated on the sea floor leading to the formation of limestone.
The Global Carbon Cycle

Components of Carbon Cycle

Components of Carbon Cycle

Types of Carbon Cycle

Short Term Long Term

Short Term

This takes just days, months, or years for carbon flow through various carbon reservoirs.

Long Term

  • This takes thousands of years for occurrence.
  • The excess amount of carbon before released is stored for a long time from the short-term cycle.

Importance of Carbon Cycle

  • It helps in balancing the energy.
  • It further traps the long eave radiations from the sun.
  • Any disturbance in the carbon cycle can result in serious consequences such as climatic changes and global warming.
  • Carbon cycle along with the nitrogen cycle plays an important role in the existence of life on earth.
  • It helps in explaining the movement of carbon between the earth՚s biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.


  • It refers to the solid parts of the Earth.
  • To describe the systems of the Earth, it is used along with atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.
  • Some of the examples are all the rocks and sand particles from dry land to those found at the bottom of the oceans.
  • Other examples are mountains, minerals, lava, and molten magma from beneath the earth՚s crust.


Q 1. What are the two types of Carbon Cycle?


The two types of Carbon Cycle are:

i) Short term

ii) Long term

Q 2. What is the importance of carbon cycle?


Following are the importance of carbon cycle:

i) Carbon provides insulation by trapping the sun՚s heat.

ii) It acts as the building block of life forming stable bonds.

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