Life on Earth is based on the chemistry of carbon. Multiple scientific studies have demonstrated throughout history the importance of carbon for life on our planet, since each and every one of the organisms that inhabit it needs this bioelement to exist and survive. The functions performed by carbon are truly surprising: from the stability of biochemical molecules guaranteed by the structure of the carbon atoms that constitute them, to the use of carbon as a raw material in industries, means of transport and as a source of energy.
If you want to know in detail what is the importance of carbon in living beings, continue reading this AgroCorrn article and you will be surprised at the infinite functions that carbon fulfills within the functioning of our planet.
What is carbon
The carbon atom (C) is the most important atom of biological molecules . The diversity and stability of carbon-containing compounds is due to the specific properties of the carbon atom and, especially, to the nature of the interactions of carbon atoms with each other, as well as with a limited number of elements found in molecules with biological importance.
The branch of science devoted mainly to the study of carbon and its biological properties is organic chemistry (within which biochemistry is included), which combines the complex world of the structure of atoms and molecules, together with the various e essential biological processes that take place in cells, organisms and ecosystems.
In the next sections we will see in more detail what is the role that carbon plays in these three levels of organization, from the simplest on a cellular scale, to the most complex and diverse, ecosystems.
What is the importance of carbon in living beings – summary
Carbon is used as a substrate for multiple physical-chemical reactions, as well as within complex biological processes, and it is also the raw material for an endless number of products that humans consume and produce in our day to day life. To better understand the importance of carbon in living beings , in the following list we present the main functions that it performs as an essential part of living beings and their environment:
- Chemical composition, structure and metabolism in cells.
- Photosynthesis, respiration and carbon transfer between living beings.
- Carbon fluxes in the atmosphere, soil and oceans from ecosystems.
The importance of carbon in cells
Cell chemistry is directly related to the biological properties and benefits of the carbon atoms that make them up. This fact is mainly due to the great stability provided by carbon atoms within the structure and functioning of the cell, since the strong covalent bonds that are established between carbon atoms , give the molecular structures of cells the ability to to form linear and branched chains of great stability.
In addition to its structural function, carbon is used by cells as a source of metabolic energy and powerful chemical reactivity, which are vital for cell growth and interaction with the environment.
Importance of carbon in living beings
The different groups of living beings that exist on the planet make use of carbon to cover one or more of their vital functions. These are the key points of the importance of carbon in living beings :
- Perhaps the most prominent vital function in which carbon intervenes in living beings is food, for which animals, plants and other organisms absorb and process nutrients that contain carbon such as carbohydrates, methane , bicarbonate and carbon dioxide, the latter being the basis of the autotrophic feeding that photosynthetic organisms follow.
- In addition, living beings need a certain minimum amount of carbon to carry out their metabolism in a balanced way, which is based on the use of organic compounds derived from carbon as a source of energy . In this way, living organisms obtain the energy they need to survive through respiration and the transfer of carbon between living beings, observable, for example, in food chains.
- As for the importance of carbon in the human body , this is determined by the need to incorporate this precious bioelement in our body, since it is a natural part of it. Along with oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, carbon is one of the fundamental structural components of our cells, organs and tissues ( animal tissues ).
Importance of carbon in ecosystems
The importance of carbon in nature is another of the main axes of carbon as the basis for life. In each and every one of the different ecosystems on the planet, carbon fluxes must be constant and balanced , thus allowing soil-water-atmosphere exchange (as you can see in the carbon cycle diagram in the first section).
Thus, through the complex carbon cycle , this important bioelement becomes part of the planet’s soils, oceans and atmosphere, with living beings being the intermediaries for the flow and conversion of carbon. In each ecosystem, living beings are responsible for consuming and producing organic compounds made up of carbon atoms, to keep both the ecosystem to which they belong and the planet as a whole in balance. Here you can learn more about what is an ecosystem in equilibrium and how it is maintained .
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