The Cycles

Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus

The Different Cycles.

A few of the cycles that accure in nature are The CarbonCycle, The Nitrogen Cycle, and The Phosphorus Cycle. Theses cycles accure on a dailey basis, and help all living things servive.

The Carbon Cycle

All living things are made of carbon. Carbon is also a part of the ocean, air, and even rocks. Because the Earth is a dynamic place, carbon does not stay still. It is on the move!

In the atmosphere, carbon is attached to some oxygen in a gas called carbon dioxide.

Plants use carbon dioxide and sunlight to make their own food and grow. The carbon becomes part of the plant. Plants that die and are buried may turn into fossil fuels made of carbon like coal and oil over millions of years. When humans burn fossil fuels, most of the carbon quickly enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and traps heat in the atmosphere. Without it and other greenhouse gases, Earth would be a frozen world. But humans have burned so much fuel that there is about 30% more carbon dioxide in the air today than there was about 150 years ago, and Earth is becoming a warmer place. In fact, ice cores show us that there is now more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been in the last 420,000 years.

The Nitrogen Cycle

For Nitrogen to be used by different life forms on Earth, it must change into different states. Nitrogen in the atmosphere, or air, is N2. Other important states of nitrogen include Nitrates (N03), Nitrites (NO2), and Ammonium (NH4).

Processes in the Nitrogen Cycle:

  • Fixation - Fixation is the first step in the process of making nitrogen usable by plants. Here bacteria change nitrogen into ammonium.
  • Nitrification - this is the process by which ammonium gets changed into nitrates by bacteria. Nitrates are what the plants can then absorb.
  • Assimilation - This is how plants get nitrogen. They absorb nitrates from the soil into their roots. Then the nitrogen gets used in amino acids, nucleic acids, and chlorophyll.
  • Ammonification - This is part of the decaying process. When a plant or animal dies, decomposers like fungi and bacteria turn the nitrogen back in ammonium so it can reenter the nitrogen cycle.
  • Denitrification - Extra nitrogen in the soil gets put back out into the air. There are special bacteria that perform this task as well.

The Phosphorus Cycle

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and animals in the form of ions PO43- and HPO42-. It is a part of DNA-molecules, of molecules that store energy (ATP and ADP) and of fats of cell membranes. Phosphorus is also a building block of certain parts of the human and animal body, such as the bones and teeth.

Phosphorus can be found on earth in water, soil and sediments. Unlike the compounds of other matter cycles phosphorus cannot be found in air in the gaseous state. This is because phosphorus is usually liquid at normal temperatures and pressures. It is mainly cycling through water, soil and sediments. In the atmosphere phosphorus can mainly be found as very small dust particles.
Phosphorus moves slowly from deposits on land and in sediments, to living organisms, and than much more slowly back into the soil and water sediment. The phosphorus cycle is the slowest one of the matter cycles that are described here.
Phosphorus is most commonly found in rock formations and ocean sediments as phosphate salts. Phosphate salts that are released from rocks through weathering usually dissolve in soil water and will be absorbed by plants. Because the quantities of phosphorus in soil are generally small, it is often the limiting factor for plant growth. That is why humans often apply phosphate fertilizers on farmland. Phosphates are also limiting factors for plant-growth in marine ecosystems, because they are not very water-soluble. Animals absorb phosphates by eating plants or plant-eating animals.
Phosphorus cycles through plants and animals much faster than it does through rocks and sediments. When animals and plants die, phosphates will return to the soils or oceans again during decay. After that, phosphorus will end up in sediments or rock formations again, remaining there for millions of years. Eventually, phosphorus is released again through weathering and the cycle starts over.