Nitrogen- Here, There, Everywhere

By: Deidra Proctor & Taylor Napier

How does the Nitrogen Cycle work?

Step By Step

Some plants and animals cannot use atmospheric (pure) nitrogen. It must be fixed to become useable. There are only a few things that can "fix" atmospheric nitrogen. These are known as nitrogen fixing bacteria. Nitrogen enters the soil, and goes to plants called Legumes. On the roots of these plants there are nodules, which are where the bacteria live. Some plants don't have nodules, and have to get their nitrogen from the soil. Animals get their nitrogen by eating plants. Decomposing bacteria can break down nitrogen in waste, and return decayed plants and animals as nitrogen to the soil. The nitrogen cycles between the soil and organisms and is constantly being reused.

Things To Start Considering

If humans were to put nitrogen enhanced fertilizer onto plants in the ecosystem, then the plants wouldn't really be affected. They would grow more, and not necessarily be destroyed. However, there could be an affect on other parts of the ecosystem. If there was a big rainfall, and it caused a runoff, that could affect a pond near the ecosystem. If plants near the water were enhanced with nitrogen fertilizer, the soil under them would runoff into the pond after the rain. These plants would then start growing rapidly in the pond, and absorb all the water. The fish or organisms living in the pond would run out of resources to use to survive, and would eventually die off because of shortage of resources.
Humans can also be affected by human impact to the nitrogen cycle. Humans sometimes dump sewage and waste into water bodies, causing it to kill off all resources in the water. All the extra nitrogen in the water causes lowered dissolved oxygen levels. Plants and animals living in the water then cannot breathe, and have the appropriate resources to survive. This could affect us personally. Fishermen could fish in that water body, but after the nitrogen level increase, the fish would die off. Also, the odors and chemicals from the waste could get into the air and affect our breathing as well. We need to realize how we can harm ourselves and others by our impact.
When humans disrupt the nitrogen cycle, it destroys some of the resources we have available. Nitrogen could be in the soil, and there could be a runoff into a body of water. Sometimes farmers add nitrogen enhanced fertilizers to plants, and give them extra nitrogen. When this happens, nitrogen can go into the water and kill off plants and animals. That leaves us with the problems of loss of resources such as cod in ponds, plants, and losing water. The soil would runoff into the water, and then plants would start growing in the water and take up the water.

Are you wondering how we can fix this problem? It's easy, really. If your a farmer, try not adding as much nitrogen enhanced fertilizers to your crops or plants. Adding fertilizer is understandable, and completely okay. However, the extra nitrogen can damage any body of water the soil builds up in. Also, keep your plants or farms away from any major bodies of water. When it rains, there will be a runoff of water and soil into a bigger body of water. If you don't want to damage any plants or animals in the water, I would keep them away from any water bodies. This can help us in the long run, and it can keep all resources available to us that we need.