Glossary of *S Largent* Environmental Science Biochemical Cycles

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energy from the sun converts liquid water (from the ocean and other large bodies of water) into water vapor (gas).
as the water vapor rises in the atmosphere; it cools; due to lower temperatures and begins to form clouds.
the increase of cooled water vapor in the clouds leads to the release of liquid water drops from the clouds (in the atmosphere) back to the Earth.
the liquid water is collected in various bodies of water which generally lead to the ocean; where the process of evaporation can begin again.
energy from the sun converts liquid water from living organisms into water vapor (gas). For example; humans perspire/sweat.
(Carbon Cycle) Within the aquatic regions
carbon is found in sediments (from accumulation of decaying organic material); along with carbon (usually in the form of carbon dioxide) that is present in the water (due to release from aquatic plants and animals); and any uplifting of the sediments;
(Carbon Cycle) Within the terrestrial/land-based regions
carbon is found in the soil (from accumulation of decaying organic material); along with carbon (usually in the form of carbon dioxide); that is present in the air (due to the release from plants and animals); as well as combustion (natural & man-made) and volcanic eruptions;
Nitrogen fixation
bacteria convert nitrogen gas into ammonia; this occurs in soil and water
ammonia in the soil is converted by bacteria into nitrite and nitrate ions (nitrite ions are harmful to plants; but plants can easily take up nitrate ions).
plant roots absorb the ammonia; ammonium ions; and nitrate; these materials are used by the plants to make nitrogen-containing materials; animals get their nitrogen by eating plants (either directly or indirectly).
bacteria convert the nitrogen rich organic compounds (usually in waste/decay forms) into ammonia and ammonium ions.
Phosphorus Cycle
Unlike other nutrients; phosphorus ONLY circulates through the Earth’s crust; water and living organisms. Phosphorus moves slowly from deposits on land an in the ocean sediments (through a process known as weathering) to living organisms. Plants uptake phosphorus through the soils; while animals obtain phosphorus through the consumption of other organisms. Organism wastes/decay return the phosphorus back into the soil.
Sulfur Cycle
Beginning in the atmosphere; sulfur dioxide reacts with oxygen to produce sulfur trioxide gas. This gas will react with water droplets and form sulfuric acid (which can lead to acid rain). These molecules fall to Earth; and are taken up by plants and animals. Decaying organisms release sulfur (usually in the form of hydrogen sulfide). The sulfur accumulates in the Earth’s crust; and through volcanic actions; sulfur dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.

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