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carbon cycle

The process by which carbon passes through the natural world. Atmospheric carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, is taken up by plants and algae during photosynthesis and adsorbed by the oceans. Carbon is also locked underground when decomposing plant and animal waste eventually form fossil fuels such as peat, coal, oil and gas. Carbon is released back into the atmosphere by respiration of living things (in both land and sea) and by combustion of fossil fuels.