Summary
The carbon cycle is that part of the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of Earth. Other major biogeochemical cycles include the nitrogen cycle and the water cycle. Carbon is the main component of biological compounds as well as a major component of many minerals such as limestone. The carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making Earth capable of sustaining life. It describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere, as well as long-term processes of carbon sequestration (storage) to and release from carbon sinks. To describe the dynamics of the carbon cycle, a distinction can be made between the fast and slow carbon cycle. The fast carbon cycle is also referred to as the biological carbon cycle. Fast carbon cycles can complete within years, moving substances from atmosphere to biosphere, then back to the atmosphere. Slow or geological cycles (also called deep carbon cycle) can take millions of years to complete, moving substances through the Earth's crust between rocks, soil, ocean and atmosphere. Human activities have disturbed the fast carbon cycle for many centuries by modifying land use, and moreover with the recent industrial-scale mining of fossil carbon (coal, petroleum, and gas extraction, and cement manufacture) from the geosphere. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased nearly 52% over pre-industrial levels by 2020, forcing greater atmospheric and Earth surface heating by the Sun. The increased carbon dioxide has also caused a reduction in the ocean's pH value and is fundamentally altering marine chemistry. The majority of fossil carbon has been extracted over just the past half century, and rates continue to rise rapidly, contributing to human-caused climate change. The carbon cycle was first described by Antoine Lavoisier and Joseph Priestley, and popularised by Humphry Davy.
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