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Carbon Cycle and Nitrogen Cycle
   
Blue Marble (Planet Earth) by wwworks on Flickr

Carbon Cycle

  • It is one of the most important cycles of the earth and allows for carbon to be recycled and reused throughout the biosphere (area on Earth that contains life) and all of its organisms.

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Unedited Cloud Heart on Blue Sky Free Creative Commons by Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr

In the Atmosphere

  • Carbon exists in the Earth's atmosphere primarily as the gas (carbon dioxide CO2).
  • Although it is a small percentage of the atmosphere, it plays a vital role in supporting life.
  • Other gases containing carbon in the atmosphere are methane and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's).

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Winter memories by VinothChandar on Flickr

Carbon is released into the atmosphere in several ways:


1. Through the process of respiration performed by plants and animals.

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Fly Agaric by Brian Tomlinson on Flickr

2. Carbon dioxide is also released into the air by the the decomposition of animal and plant matter by fungi and bacteria. 

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Smoke stacks (LOC) by The Library of Congress on Flickr

3. Combustion Burning fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum products, and natural gas releases carbon that has been stored in the geosphere (Earth's crust) for millions of years.

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Common Vetch by born1945 on Flickr

Nitrogen Cycle

  • Nitrogen (N) is an essential building block of amino and nucleic acids, essential to life on Earth.
  • The majority of Earth's atmosphere (approximately 78%) is nitrogen.
  • However, atmospheric nitrogen cannot be used by many living things.

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Ka-boom (lightning) by Leszek.Leszczynski on Flickr

Nitrogen Fixation

  • Atmospheric nitrogen must be processed, or "fixed,"  to be used by plants and higher animals.
  • Precipitation often contains substantial quantities of ammonia and nitrate, thought to result from nitrogen fixation by lightning and other atmospheric electric phenomena.

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Cyanobacteria by Nat Tarbox on Flickr

Some bacteria are able to fix nitrogen as organic nitrogen, a form that plants can use.

 

Shown - Cyanobacteria

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by ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser on Flickr

Plants take nitrogen from the soil by absorption through their roots.

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lively conversation by Genista on Flickr

All nitrogen obtained by animals can be traced back to the eating of plants at some stage of the food chain.
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Così com'è accaduto by Nephelim (www.nerobizzarro.com) on Flickr

Decomposition releases nitrogen back into the soil or the atmosphere.

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Dubai at night by Dominic Scaglioni on Flickr

Human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers, and release of nitrogen in waste water have dramatically altered the global nitrogen cycle.
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Algae bloom in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela by eutrophication&hypoxia on Flickr

Eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in the water) often leads to lower dissolved oxygen levels in the water, including hypoxic and anoxic conditions, which can cause cause death of aquatic organisms.
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