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Carbon is sequestered naturally in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, which over long spans of time become the carbon-based fossil fuels, such as oil, that are pulled from geologic formations deep underground.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere by plants and trees during photosynthesis. The plants and trees convert the carbon (C) into stems, stalks, leaves, and roots while the oxygen (O2) is released back to the atmosphere. On land, some of the soluble carbon moves from the roots into the soil where it provides vital nutrients to the growing plant. Because plants are made mostly of carbon, decaying plants add carbon to the soil. Even though decaying organic matter releases CO2 to the atmosphere, it does so much more slowly when left undisturbed on or under the surface of the soil. When soil is disturbed, CO2 is quickly released back into the atmosphere, so actions that leave soil undisturbed, such as no-till agriculture, are often promoted as a way to slow the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. Other ways to sequester CO2 include planting and managing forests and capturing CO2 before it enters the atmosphere and injecting it underground.
Last Modified on 09/09/2010
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