Q:

What role do decomposers play in the carbon cycle?

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Quick Answer

The role decomposers play in the carbon cycle is breaking down the remains of dead plants and animals. Through this process, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere via respiration, which is the second step in the carbon cycle. Decomposers refer to microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that are seen properly only through a microscope.

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Full Answer

The main processes of the carbon cycle are photosynthesis, respiration, decomposition, natural rock weathering and fossil fuel combustion. Respiration takes place in plants, animals and decomposers. This process involves the use of oxygen in breaking down organic compounds into carbon dioxide and water. Animals take in oxygen and oxidize their food to return carbon into the atmosphere, while decomposers consume the rotting remains of plants and animals, thereby returning carbon dioxide into the air. Decomposers thrive in soil and water, and they play an important role in the carbon cycle. Aside from breaking down dead matter, they also remove and recycle living organisms’ waste products that are considered as nature’s garbage. They degrade complex organic molecules, which permanently take in carbon and keep it from being useful to organisms, and release inorganic molecules. The nutrients they produce are consumed by green plants, which are eaten by animals. Eventually, the products of plants and animals are broken down again by decomposers.

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