Animation of the Biosphere

A NASA animation shows the 12-month cycle of all plant life on Earth - whether on land or in the ocean. Rather than showing a specific year, the animation shows an average yearly cycle by combining data from many satellite instruments and averaging them over multiple years.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The biosphere is all life on our planet. This includes all the things that are living as well as the remains of those that have died but have not yet decomposed.

Have you heard the expression “carbon-based life forms”? The living things on our planet are called carbon-based because most of the molecules in them are chains of carbon atoms linked together. These carbon chains really add up when you consider the total amount of life on the planet. Add it all up and the life on our planet contains approximately 1900 gigatons of carbon. That’s heavier than 116 billion school buses!

The biosphere has a great impact on the climate because the biosphere is closely connected to the atmosphere. When plants harness the Sun’s energy through photosynthesis, oxygen is released into the atmosphere and carbon dioxide is taken out. When plants and animals respire, carbon dioxide gas is added to the atmosphere and oxygen is taken out. Microbes living in soils can add nitrous oxide gas to the atmosphere. As humans burn components of the biosphere such as fossil fuels, forests and fields, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere.

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. It depicts nearly a decade of data about the amount of photosynthesis occuring on land and in the ocean.