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The Earth's Biosphere - Windows to the Universe

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Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This animation show where and when photosynthesis happens around the world as the seasons come and go. The land in the Northern Hemisphere gets greener each spring and summer, an indication of high rates of photosynthesis, and yellow during autumn as most plants become dormant and the amount of photosynthesis decreases. In tropical rainforest areas, plants live and photosynthesize all year long.
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The Earth's Biosphere

The biosphere includes all living things on our planet – the life on land and in the oceans - plants, animals, fungi, protists with only one cell, and even little bacteria.

Other than water, the most common thing in the bodies of living things is an element called carbon. There are so many living things on the planet that if you added up all the carbon in all of their bodies, cells, trunks, stems, and leaves it would be heavier than 116 billion school buses!

The biosphere can impact the Earth’s climate. This is because the biosphere can change the amount of greenhouse gases that are in the air of our atmosphere. When plants make their food by doing photosynthesis, oxygen is put into the air and carbon dioxide greenhouse gas is taken out of the air. When plants and animals respire, carbon dioxide is put to the air and oxygen is taken out of the air. Microbes that live in soils can add nitrous oxide, another type of greenhouse gas, to the air. When people burn fossil fuels, forests, and fields, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere too.

Last modified May 7, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

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"Science, Evolution, and Creationism", by the National Academies, provides fascinating background on these topics for all, and is particularly useful for the Earth and space science classroom. Check our other books in our online store.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF