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By Krista West

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Extra resources for Carbon Chemistry

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The carbon contained in rocks on Earth’s surface is released when weathering occurs. When it comes to human activity, mining is the main way carbon leaves the land. ind52 52 10/21/08 2:33:42 PM The Carbon Cycle 53 of the ground, and collect natural gas from under the ground and under the sea floor. Currently, humans are extracting fossil fuels faster than the Earth can replace them. CARBON IN LIVING THINGS When added up, all the living things on Earth contain about 1,900 Gt of carbon. All the cells in living organisms are made of carbon compounds, and the many kinds of molecules they contain that are used in life processes are also carbon compounds.

Weathering Weathering is the process by which rock is broken down into smaller and smaller particles. It involves both mechanical and chemical breakdowns. The mechanical breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces occurs as a result of exposure to freeze-thaw cycles and to the action of wind and water. Chemical breakdown occurs as a result of exposure to air and water and other chemicals that may be dissolved in water, such as acids. Weathering by exposure to atmosphere results in some of the carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere along with the broken-down rock and eventually washed into the ocean.

In fact, they store carbon for very long periods of time. The carbon in limestone, for example, may remain in a land reservoir for thousands of years. The carbon in a fossil fuel may be stored for millions of years. While the land holds the least active carbon atoms in the carbon cycle, it also holds the most economically valuable carbon atoms in the carbon cycle. Humans have long looked to the land as a source of carbon for fuel. Because land carbon is an important human resource, it is important to understand the way carbon enters and exits the Earth’s crust.

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