Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems: Carbon, Carbon Everywhere

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the second of three Science Objects in the Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems SciPack. It explores how the cycling of carbon and other nutrients from non-living to living components and back is one of the most important of ecosystem functions and is representative of the cycling of other elements.

All matter that comprises organic molecules, including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous and others are transferred cyclically among living organisms and their non-living environment. The cycling of elements from non-living to living components and back is one of the most important ecosystem characteristics. For example, carbon, an essential element in organic molecules, is conserved as it is transferred from inorganic carbon in an ecosystem to organic molecules in living organisms of the ecosystem and back as inorganic carbon to the environment. The carbon cycle, in the following description, serves as an example of one of the essential biogeochemical cycles.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Trace the path of a carbon atom from the atmosphere through a biomass pyramid and ultimately back to the atmosphere
  • Describe how photosynthesis and consumer respiration affect the flow of carbon through an ecosystem
  • Predict the biological effects of increasing levels of atmospheric carbon due to the massive combustion of fossil fuels
  • Identify the process that emits carbon to the atmosphere from producers, consumers and decomposers

  • Elementary
  • Middle
  • High

Community ActivitySaved in 5955 Libraries

Reviews (7)
  • on Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:23 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Flow of Matter and Energy in Ecosystems: Carbon, Carbon Everywhere Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are very beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:31 PM

This is a great refresher for my upcoming unit on Carbon Cycling

Luke Moody
Luke Moody

  • on Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:12 PM

This was a great refresher on the carbon cycle. I wish I had this as a resource for my students. It is great to get feedback as you go.


  • on Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:25 AM

Carbon, carbon everywhere is a strong support to the molecular theory. This provides evidences too to other conservation theories that govern the earth as well as the universe.

Ronaldo Relador  (Bowie, MD)
Ronaldo Relador (Bowie, MD)

  • on Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:02 PM

Good resource; provided clear details of how photosynthesis and respiration by consumers affect how carbon flows through an ecosystem. The pictures are very helpful with explaining the importance of carbon to life on Earth, and the slideshow on the global carbon cycle is excellent.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:47 PM

Very fun and engaging.


  • on Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:29 PM

I really like this Science Object but I noticed a small error in the narrative in the introduction. The script reads "cellular respiration" and the narrator says "consumer respiration."

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

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