release carbon into the air.



hold carbon and keep it from entering the air.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas in the atmosphere and is vital to life on Earth. Yet, too much carbon dioxide in the air can be harmful to the planet. What amount is just right? It depends on the balance between carbon sources and carbon sinks.




burning fossil fuels

animal respiration

storing of carbon by plants on land

storing of carbon
by plants in water

deep ocean sediment

decomposition of animal waste
and dead animals and plants

formation of fossil fuels
as peat, coal, and oil)


Too Much Carbon

Sometimes, more carbon is released than absorbed. Then there is too much carbon in the air. This affects how energy from the sun is absorbed on Earth. When peat is burned, it becomes a carbon source. Then the climate may become warmer.

The Role of Wetlands

Wetlands, like bogs, cover a small part of the planet. Yet, their ability to store carbon packs a big punch. Wetlands also filter leaves and animal waste from the water. These things hold carbon. As they get buried, the carbon is locked away.

Irish peat is taken to be burned in power plants. Peat releases more carbon dioxide than coal.

This Irish bog formed over thousands of years.