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BioFlix: Flow of Carbon Atoms

by Pearson
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Carbon atoms from carbon dioxide are incorporated into living things by producers such as this plant. Carbon dioxide enters a leaf, moves into a cell, and goes into a chloroplast. There, in the process of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is used to make sugar molecules. The sugars can be used to build larger carbon-containing molecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. In this way, carbon that was in the air is now part of the plant. When a plant is eaten by an herbivore, or primary consumer, carbon in plant tissue enters the primary consumer's digestive system. There, plant molecules are broken down. These small molecules are then used by the primary consumer to make larger molecules for building its own tissues. In this way, some of the carbon that was in a plant becomes carbon in a primary consumer. Similarly, when a primary consumer is eaten by a higher-level consumer, some of the carbon in the primary consumer is incorporated into the higher-level consumer. Carbon-containing molecules in dead plant material, animal feces, and dead organisms are taken up by decomposers, such as fungi and bacteria. Decomposers break down these materials and incorporate some of the carbon atoms into their own bodies.
Carbon atoms from carbon dioxide are incorporated into living things by producers such as this plant. Carbon dioxide enters a leaf, moves into a cell, and goes into a chloroplast. There, in the process of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is used to make sugar molecules. The sugars can be used to build larger carbon-containing molecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. In this way, carbon that was in the air is now part of the plant. When a plant is eaten by an herbivore, or primary consumer, carbon in plant tissue enters the primary consumer's digestive system. There, plant molecules are broken down. These small molecules are then used by the primary consumer to make larger molecules for building its own tissues. In this way, some of the carbon that was in a plant becomes carbon in a primary consumer. Similarly, when a primary consumer is eaten by a higher-level consumer, some of the carbon in the primary consumer is incorporated into the higher-level consumer. Carbon-containing molecules in dead plant material, animal feces, and dead organisms are taken up by decomposers, such as fungi and bacteria. Decomposers break down these materials and incorporate some of the carbon atoms into their own bodies.