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Ocean's Role In Carbon Cycling

Ocean's Role In Carbon Cycling
How Does It Work?

The ocean is often called the carbon sink with the capacity to store 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere. It absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere and then it releases that carbon into the atmosphere.

This absorption is done by carbon dioxide molecules dissolving into the water at the surface level.

While some of these carbon molecules stay in a CO2 gas form. Some of this CO2 is reacted with the water molecules and creates carbonic acid. Other CO2 molecules get transformed by small marine plants called phytoplankton, which turn the CO2 into organic matter. This organic matter is turned into calcium carbonate that makes seashells.

Significance Of Cycle

The carbon molecules cycle between the atmosphere and the ocean in physical and biological processes. The exchange of CO2 between the air and the ocean in the physio-chemical exchange is determined by the difference in concentration of gases between the air and the body of water, this difference signifies how fast the gas can diffuse from the atmosphere into the ocean. The physical pressure of the CO2 particles in the atmosphere above the ocean is what creates the diffusion of these carbon particles into the water.

What's Ocean Acidification

When the presence of CO2 particles increases over the water body, these particles continue to diffuse into the water until the level of CO2 is the same inside the water and in the atmosphere above the water. The biological diffusion of carbon dioxide into the water is because of the marine plants that require CO2 for photosynthesis. The ocean absorbs a large amount of the carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere, this changes the PH levels of the water and the ocean waters become more acidic, this phenomenon is known as ocean acidification.


Currently, almost half the oxygen that we breathe comes from the oceans. With climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is uncertain how the carbon cycle will be affected.

With increases in CO2 levels the cycles such as the circulation, biogeochemical, and the ecosystem within the oceans are being affected and scientists are not sure how carbon dioxide level changes will affect these cycles.


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