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The carbon cycle

The Carbon Cycle is the movement of carbon, in its many forms, between all living plants and animals, the atmosphere, the oceans, and soil and rocks. 

This diagram shows the six main global reservoirs of carbon. The boxed numbers are the sizes of the reservoirs in 1012 kg.


Forests affect the carbon cycle.

  • On the negative side, the most important factor influencing the carbon cycle is deforestation which results in a permanent loss of forest cover and a large release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Deforestation, which occurs primarily in tropical countries where forests are permanently cleared and converted to agriculture and urban settlement, is responsible for about 20 percent of global CO2 emissions.

  • On the positive side, planting fast-growing trees is the best way to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. By using wood sustainably, either to replace materials such as steel and concrete, or as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, CO2 emissions can be reduced. Every wood substitute, including steel, plastic and cement, requires more energy to produce than wood. One of the best ways to address climate change is to use more wood.


Ways people can improve their impact on the Carbon Cycle:

  • plant trees to help store more carbon

  • use wood products from sustainably managed forests

  • use public transport, cycle or walk rather than driving

  • manage forests to grow healthy trees because healthy trees store more carbon

  • use renewable energy sources

  • avoid or reduce your use of non-renewable energy supplies such as coal, oil and gas

  • conserve electricity and heating fuels

  • reuse building materials thus storing carbon for longer



Last updated: 18th December 2014