Earth’s Life Support Systems

Just as human activity is upsetting the Earth’s
carbon cycle, our actions are altering the water
.” – David Suzuki

Water and carbon support life on Earth, utilised by
flora, fauna and humans. 71% of the Earth’s surface is
covered in water however 68% of the freshwater is
locked in ice and glaciers. Water is moved and stored
beneath our feet and this 30% is critically important
to life on Earth.
Water and carbon are cycled between the land,
oceans and atmosphere in open and closed systems,
the processes within these cycles are inter-related.
Forests, soils, oceans and the atmosphere all store
carbon and yet they are threatened and altered by
human activity, this will be examined in detail through
the Tropical Rainforest and the Arctic tundra case
studies as well as at a global scale.
Physical changes in these cycles occur over time,
from seconds to millions of years, and these changes
can be seen at a range of scales, from individual
plants or trees to vast ecosystems. With research and
monitoring it is clear there is an increased need for
global and national solutions to protect ‘Earth’s life
support systems’.

  1. How important are water and carbon to life on Earth?
  2. How do the water and carbon cycles operate in contrasting locations?
  3. How much change occurs over time in the water and carbon cycles?
  4. To what extent are the water and carbon cycles linked?

5. Topic-specific skills:

  • climate graphs
  • simple mass balance
  • rates of flow
  • unit conversions
  • analysis
  • presentation of field data.