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Carbon phosphorus and nitrogen cycles essay

Water Cycle

This means that nitrate concentrations in groundwater are highest in winter and spring. However, during summer and autumn, when plants are growing and taking up nitrate from the soil, there is less leaching and nitrate concentrations in groundwater are lower.

Organic matter is critical for. See also the Greenhouse gases pages of this site. The nitrogen cycle is a gaseous cycle: it involves the movement of nitrogen between the soil, living things, and the atmosphere. For an explanation of just why nitrogen is so common in the atmosphere, visit " Ask an Earth Scientist ". Although nitrogen makes up such a large proportion of the atmosphere, it is often a limiting factor for plant growth. Animals must obtain their nitrogen by eating organic material - plants or other animals - containing nitrogen.

Because of this, nitrogen - in the form of nitrate - makes up a large proportion of most commercial fertilisers. Unfortunately, excessive amounts of nitrate in agricultural run-off can have harmful effects on aquatic ecosystems. The nitrogen cycle.

Image from Pidwirny, M. Some atmospheric nitrogen is 'fixed' by lightning into NO3-, and then carried into the soil by rainwater.


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However, most of it is fixed by micro-organisms in the soil. Nitrosomonas bacteria convert the ammonium into nitrite NO 2 - , and the nitrite is in turn altered to form nitrate NO 3 - by Nitrobacter bacteria. These processes are called nitrification.

Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles

The nitrate they produce is highly soluble in soil water and so readily available to plants. However, because it is so soluble, nitrate is also easily leached from the soil and into waterways. NItrogen returns to the atmosphere as a result of denitrification, in which nitrate is reduced by anaerobic bacteria into nitrogen gas N 2 or nitrous oxide N 2 O. Jump to the Ecology page for more information on the impact of nitrate on our waterways, and on research that's being done on ways to reduce that impact.. Content Areas.

Curriculum Areas. Living World. Environmental Education. Planet Earth. Nutrient Cycling What goes in must come out. In farming, one of those outputs is urine. Nitrate from the urine can enter waterways, either directly or via groundwater, with undesirable environmental outcomes. Using what you know, try to answer the following questions. Places in the ecosystem that store carbon are reservoirs. Places that supply and remove carbon are carbon sources and carbon sinks. If more carbon is provided than stored, the place is a carbon source.

The Habitable Planet Unit 4 - Ecosystems // Online Textbook

If more carbon dioxide is absorbed than is emitted, the reservoir is a carbon sink. What are some examples of carbon sources and sinks? A reservoir can change from a sink to a source and vice-versa. A forest is a sink, but when the forest burns it becomes a source. The amount of time that carbon stays, on average, in a reservoir is the residence time of carbon in that reservoir.

The concept of residence times is explored using the undergraduate population at UGA as an example. Remember that the amount of CO 2 in the atmosphere is very low. This means that a small increase or decrease in the atmospheric CO 2 can have a large effect. Scientists have a number of ways to see what atmospheric CO 2 levels were in the past. One is to measure the composition of air bubbles trapped in glacial ice.

The amount of CO 2 in gas bubbles that date from before the Industrial Revolution, when society began to use fossil fuels, is thought to be the natural content of CO 2 for this time period; that number was parts per million ppm. By , when scientists began to directly measure CO 2 content from the atmosphere at Mauna Loa volcano in the Pacific Ocean, the amount was ppm Figure below.

In , the atmospheric CO 2 content had risen to ppm. Humans have changed the natural balance of the carbon cycle because we use coal, oil, and natural gas to supply our energy demands.

Fossil fuels are a sink for CO 2 when they form but they are a source for CO 2 when they are burned. The equation for combustion of propane, which is a simple hydrocarbon looks like this:. The equation shows that when propane burns, it uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water. So when a car burns a tank of gas, the amount of CO 2 in the atmosphere increases just a little. Added over millions of tanks of gas and coal burned for electricity in power plants and all of the other sources of CO 2 , the result is the increase in atmospheric CO 2 seen in the Figure above.

The second largest source of atmospheric CO 2 is deforestation Figure below. Trees naturally absorb CO 2 while they are alive. Trees that are cut down lose their ability to absorb CO 2. If the tree is burned or decomposes, it becomes a source of CO 2.

A forest can go from being a carbon sink to being a carbon source. Coal, oil, and natural gas as well as calcium carbonate rocks and ocean sediments are long term carbon sinks for the natural cycling of carbon. When humans extract and use these resources, combustion makes them into carbon sources. For years, our oceans have absorbed some of the carbon dioxide that humans create through burning fossil fuels. But all that extra CO2 is making our oceans more acidic with potentially dire consequences.

Why is such a small amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere even important? Greenhouse gases trap heat energy that would otherwise radiate out into space and warms Earth.

Biogeochemical cycle

This is like what happens in a greenhouse. The glass that makes up the greenhouse holds in heat that would otherwise radiate out. When greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere increase, the atmosphere holds onto more heat than it normally would. This increase in global temperatures is called global warming. Global warming and the effects of rising temperatures were described in the Climate chapter. Nitrogen N 2 is also vital for life on Earth as an essential component of organic materials, such as amino acids, nucleic acids, and chlorophyll Figure below.

The Nitrogen Cycle

Although nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere, it is not in a form that plants can use. Although some nitrogen is fixed by lightning or blue-green algae, much is modified by bacteria in the soil. These bacteria combine the nitrogen with oxygen or hydrogen to create nitrates or ammonia Figure below. Nitrogen fixing bacteria either live free or in a symbiotic relationship with leguminous plants peas, beans, peanuts.