GCSE Biology: The Respiratory System

5th April 2017

GCSE Biology - Respiration

Key Facts for the Respiratory System


The respiratory system is a combination of organs and body parts which allow air to pass in and out of the body. This is vital to allow for the process of ventilation - breathing.


The different parts involved in the process of respiration are:

  • The trachea

  • The bronchi

  • Intercostal muscles

  • Alveoli

  • Ribs

  • Diaphragm


The trachea branches into the bronchi. The trachea is kept open to allow easy air through by cartilage rings which are in its walls. The bronchi carry air to the lungs - one to each on the left and right. Pleural membranes surround each lung and hold them in place whilst also allowing them the flexibility needed for the process of breathing. The bronchi eventually split into small tubes called bronchioles on the end of which you find alveoli. Alveoli are extremely important because it is here that gas exchange takes place.


Gas exchange is the process by which oxygen enter the bloodstream and carbon dioxide is expelled. The alveoli cells are adapted to allow this to happen efficiently by having:

  • Thin walls
  • Large surface area for absorption

  • Moist surface

  • Many blood capillaries which carry deoxygenated blood in and oxygenated blood out


Gas exchange happens through a process called diffusion where co2 and o2 in areas of high concentration move to areas of low concentration - this is how oxygen is gained and carbon dioxide expelled.


There are many things that we do that can affect how well respiration takes place in our body. One of the biggest causes of respiratory problems is smoking. It causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs which is unable to be swept out by the cilia cells because they become too sticky to move. Smoke also damages the walls of the alveoli which reduces the efficiency of gas exchange, can carry less oxygen and therefore makes breathing harder.


Respiration is key for getting top marks in Biology. So learn a bit more by listening to our song - The respiratory system.



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