A Cycle in Nature

The Importance of The Nitrogen Cycle in our Ecosystems


The pure element, nitrogen is the most abundant in the Earth's atmosphere, making up about 78% of it. Nitrogen can be found in all living tissues, in proteins, and many other important organic substances. All life depends on the cycle in which nitrogen goes through.

Plants need lots of nitrogen to grow, and that's where the nitrogen cycle enters our ecosystems. Without nitrogen, our plants could not be fertilized, and would grow at a much slower rate. But, with the abundance of nitrogen from fossil fuels and fertilization, there is a lot more than we need. Nitrogen oxides can be found in the air, and are greenhouse gasses, they trap heat in the atmosphere and increase global warming. This being said, nitrogen can contribute very much to our ecosystems, but if humankind is not careful, nitrogen can overtake our atmosphere.

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The Nitrogen Cycle

The nitrogen cycle is the way that nitrogen passes though the Earth. All living organisms need various compounds of nitrogen to live. Plants directly require nitrogen to grow, and then primary consumers eat them, and so on.

Most plants cannot take in nitrogen as the pure element, from the air. So the nitrogen cycle starts with nitrogen fixation, or when nitrogen is turned into ammonia by either lightning, or the bacteria in the roots of legumes. The next step is the nitrification, or the conversion of ammonia to inorganic nitrogen by bacteria. This is left in the soil. After the nitrification, there is assimilation, or the process in which plant roots take up the inorganic nitrogen, and uses it to grow. What's left afterwards is the organic (pure) nitrogen. Ammonification is when organic nitrogen is turned into ammonia (nitrates) by decomposers, and returned to the soil. The last step that completes the nitrogen cycle is denitrification, in which nitrates and nitrites are returned to the air as nitrogen (N2).

Human Disruption in the Cycle

If the nitrogen cycle is disrupted by human activity, the organisms in an ecosystem will no longer thrive. The plants will not grow as they did before, and other living organisms in other trophic levels will not receive the energy that is needed and was obtained from producers. With the amount of nitrogen in the air today, if producers are not thriving, there will be lots of nitrogen in the air, which will contribute to global warming.

If the nitrogen cycle is disrupted in the ecosystem that I live in, I will be affected in the way that my soil will not be as fertile for me to grow plants, and will need to take bigger measures to get growing, healthy plants.

The problems that arise when human activity disrupts the nitrogen cycle are that organisms do not receive the energy that they need, therefore disrupting the balance in the ecosystem.

I would recommend a concerned citizen to use natural fertilizers, like growing corn or other legumes, or to bring awareness to the problem, contact a local conservation group for more information or how to help.

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