Visualization
ES0106  Observe an animation showing evidence of the carbon cycle.
  !   Click the image to see the animation. Click and drag the slider button, or click the next and back arrows on the animation control bar to examine specific frames.

These images show evidence of just one part of the global carbon cycle, the process that moves carbon from the atmosphere to the biosphere.

Colors in the images indicate plant growth on land and in the ocean over a period of three years. As plants grow, they take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, the carbon becomes part of the living plant. Thus, plant growth shows the transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to the biosphere. Seasonal changes in the animation can be viewed as the "pulse" of the global carbon cycle.

Images provided by ORBIMAGE © Orbital Imaging Corporation.
Processing by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The carbon cycle doesn’t stop when carbon becomes part of a plant. If the plant material is burned, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. If the plant is eaten, the carbon remains in the biosphere, but moves to a higher level in the food chain. If the plant material is buried (eventually becoming coal, for example), the carbon becomes part of the geosphere.