How Did Photosynthesis Change the Earth's Environment?

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Photosynthesis changed the Earth's atmosphere through the creation of carbon dioxide, among other factors. Find out about how photosynthesis changed the Earth's atmosphere with help from an experienced chemistry professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Photosynthesis & Other Reactions
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Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Dan Weisenberger, and this is “How Did Photosynthesis Change the Earth’s Atmosphere?” Now, photosynthesis, shown here in this diagram, is a very complicated process in which light energy, carbon dioxide, and water, are converted into sugar, and oxygen. And, this is a very simplified diagram. However, photosynthesis is a series of chemical changes that occur from the first light energy entering the chlorophyll and then eventually producing sugars and oxygen that are used for cell growth and cell survival as an energy source, and the oxygen gets released into the atmosphere. Now, the first evidence of photosynthesis was around two billion years ago, and in those bacteria, they did not convert CO2 into oxygen, but rather sulfur. And, sulfur was released into the atmosphere, and the light energy was not visible light, but near infrared. And, as the cyanobacteria evolved after that, they started as the first oxygen producers in photosynthesis, and this correlated with the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere as the Earth was cooling after it formed. So, what we have in plants is that plants take CO2 and convert it into sugar and oxygen. Animals breathe in that oxygen, and convert it back into carbon dioxide and sugars, which then the carbon dioxide gets released, and that feeds the photosynthesis in plants. However, all of this would not have been possible if it were not for the original cyanobacteria, which were the first to produce oxygen. And, we would not have oxygen without these small bacteria doing their job. I’m Dan Weisenberger, and this is “How Did Photosynthesis Change the Earth’s Atmosphere?”


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