Carbon in land consumers

There's nothing as delicious as something carbon-based...

By: The Element On The Move Team (Programme and web teams)

  • Duration 5 mins
  • Updated Sunday 7th May 2000
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Chemistry, Biology
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Bobcat in a meadow Copyrighted image Copyright: photos.com

Every time one organism consumes another, organic carbon changes hands. The organic carbon from food is used to build tissue, or is broken down to give the animal energy. The carbon in the food is returned to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Carnivores get their carbon from the bodies of other animals. Herbivores get theirs from plants. This means that all land consumers ultimately depend on photosynthesis.

Insects too are prodigious consumers. They turn over more carbon than all the larger land animals put together, although individually their lives are very short.

Where do you find the carbon?

Land animals

What form of carbon?

Organic carbon

How long will the carbon remain?

Less than one year on average

How much carbon is there?

About 1 x 1012 kg

What processes will free the carbon?

Burning, respiration

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