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Department of Industrial Engineering

Biogeochemical Cycles
Biogeochemical cycles that allow materials to be reused
Water Cycle
Carbon Cycle
Nitrogen Cycle
Sulfur Cycle
Phosphorous Cycle
Water Cycle (Hydrologic Cycle)

Water is not usually destroyed, it just moves from place

to place in the process called Water Cycle
Transfer of water from the oceans to the atmosphere
(evaporation) to the land (precipitation) and back to the
oceans (runoff from streams, rivers and surface
Carbon Cycle

Carbon element present in all organic substances

from coal to oil to DNA
Carbon enters the atmosphere through the
respiration of living things (as CO2), through fires that
burn organic compounds, and by diffusion from the
Carbon (as CO2), is removed from the atmosphere by
photosynthesis of green plants, algae and
photosynthetic bacteria.
Photosynthesis - plants take up CO2 and convert it into
organic matter
Organic compounds in fossil fuels also come from
photosynthesis (plants)
CO2 is released from fossil fuels by combustion process
Terrestrial (plants and geologic formation) reservoir of
Ocean- the major carbon sink (reservoir), contains
dissolved CO2 , carbonate and bicarbonate ions
Cycling of carbon involves release of CO2 by animal
respiration, fires, diffusion from oceans, weathering of
rocks, and precipitation of carbonate minerals
Carbon fixation: carbon is changed from gaseous carbon
dioxide to less mobile organic molecules. Once incorporated
into organic compounds, recycling of carbon is possible.

Ex. sugar molecule in juice drink is absorbed in bloodstream, made

available to cells for cellular respiration or production of more complex
biomolecules; may be used in respiration where the carbon atom is
exhaled as carbon dioxide which is taken up by plants
Carbon is locked up in calcium carbonate used to build
shells and skeletons of marine organisms
Coal and oil are compressed, chemically altered remains of
plants and microorganisms that lived millions of years ago
Carbon is transported through geological events
Carbon Sinks: materials that store carbon, including
geological formations and standing forests
Global warming is traced to the release of carbon from
these sinks e.g., burning of fossil fuels, clearing of forests
which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen an important nutrient for living organisms

Amino acids, peptides and proteins contain nitrogen
Nitrogen makes up 78% of air
Plants acquire nitrogen through the nitrogen cycle
Proteins, nucleic acids, and other organic chemicals contain
nitrogen, so nitrogen is a very important atom in biological
N2 enters the trophic system through a process called
nitrogen fixation. Bacteria found on the roots of some
plants can fix N2 to organic molecules, making proteins.
Again, animals get their nitrogen by eating plants
Animals releases nitrogen in their urine.
Fish releases NH3, but NH3 when concentrated, is
poisonous to living organisms. So organisms must dilute
NH3 with a lot of water.
Living in water, fish have no problem with this
requirements, but terrestrial animals have problems.
Animals convert NH3 into urine, or another chemical that
is not as poisonous as NH3. The process of NH3 release is
called ammonification.
Because NH3 is poisonous, most of the NH3 which is
released is untouchable. But soil bacteria have the ability
to assimilate NH3 into proteins. These bacteria effectively
eats the NH3, and make proteins from it. This process is
called assimilation.
Some soil bacteria do not convert NH3 into proteins, but
they make nitrate NO3- instead. This process is called
Some plants can use NO3-, consuming nitrate and
making proteins. Some soil bacteria, however, takes
NO3-, and converts it into N2, returning nitrogen gas
back into the atmosphere. This last process is called
denitrification, because it breaks nitrate apart.
Nitrogen-fixing bacteria the only organisms that can
use nitrogen gas (N2) directly from the atmosphere; fix
or transform N2 into a form that plants can use (as
Nitrogen-fixing bacteria lives within the roots of a few
plants e.g., beans, peas, clover and alder trees
The bacteria use sugars provided by the plants and , in
exchange, produce ammonia, a form of nitrogen that
plants can use (in a mutualistic relationship)
Excess nitrogen fixed by the bacteria is released into the
Animals get nitrogen by eating plants or other animals
Bacteria along with fungi are decomposers as they
break down wastes (like urine, dung, leaves and other
plants) and dead organisms, returning the nitrogen they
contain to the soil in the form of ammonia (NH3). Other
bacteria transfer ammonia into nitrogen gas which return
it to the atmosphere, then the cycle begins
In nature, the primary inorganic form of sulfur is sulfate ion
found in natural waters
Elemental sulfur and combined forms of sulfur such as pyrite
FeS2 are found in geologic deposits
Plants are dependent upon bacteria, in this case
chemoautotrophic bacteria, which oxidizes elemental sulfur to
sulfates, as in the following formula
2S + H2O + 3O2 ---> 2H2SO4
In sanitary sewer systems and wastewater treatment
facilities, sulfate is reduced under anaerobic conditions to
sulfides and hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S).

In the presence of oxygen, sulfur bacteria

(Thiobacillus) oxidize hydrogen sulfide
converting it to sulfuric acid.
H2S + 2O2 H2SO4 (Oxidation)
Once in the form of sulfate (2H2SO4), plants can then incorporate
the sulfur into proteins.
Sulfate is taken up by plants and microorganisms for the production
of cell tissues. Animals consume plants and microorganisms for
production of cell tissues.
Upon death, sulfur is released to the environment through
degradation of proteins contained in the plant and animal tissues
Sulfates and organic matter undergo under degradation
under aerobic or anaerobic conditions (microbially
mediated or in the presence of Desulfovibrio) to form
H2S. The process is reduction.
Proteins are not only made from carbon and nitrogen, but
many important proteins also contain sulfur.
Sulfur is also an important component of coenzyme A,
which is used to produce energy in cellular respiration.
So the availability of sulfur is essential to maintaining life.
Organic compounds containing phosphorus are found in all
living organisms (no gaseous component)
Inorganic phosphorus occurs naturally in soils and rocks as
calcium phosphate and calcium hydroxyapatite
Wastewater discharges from industrial and municipal
wastewater treatment plants and agricultural runoff from
fertilizers are major contributors of phosphorus release to
The keystone of getting phosphorus into trophic systems
are plants.
Plants absorb phosphorous from water and soil into their
tissues, tying them to organic molecules.
Once taken up by plants, phosphorus is available for
animals when they consume the plants.
When plants and animals die, bacteria decomposes their
bodies, releasing some of the phosphorus back into the soil.
Once in the soil, phosphorous can be moved 100s to 1,000s of
miles from were they were released by riding through
streams and rivers.
So the water cycle plays a key role of moving phosphorus
from ecosystem to ecosystem.
Phosphorous in unpolluted waters is imported through
dust in precipitation or via weathering of rocks.
Phosphorus is normally present in watersheds in
extremely small amounts as inorganic orthophosphate,
suspended as organic colloids, absorbed onto particulate
organic and inorganic sediments
In polluted waters, the major source of phosphorus is
from human activities
The decomposition of algae releases phosphorus which is
transferred to sediments and to undecomposed organic
In some cases, phosphorous will travel to a lake, and
settle on the bottom.
There, it may turn into sedimentary rocks, limestone, to
be released millions of years later.
So sedimentary rocks store or conserve much of the
phosphorus for future eons.

Materials such as water, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and

phosphorous undergo cycling through organisms and
their environment
Major impact of humans on the environment has been to
alter the rates of material cycling
Human Influences on the

Ecosystems change naturally but human activity can

speed up natural processes by several magnitudes in
terms of time
Large scale agricultural operations (for food supply) can result in
the release of pesticides, fertilizers and carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases to the environment
Dam construction for hydroelectric power (a clean, renewable
energy source) can have detrimental effects on river ecosystems
Human activity can also change ecosystems through destruction
of species , where the loss of habitat can threaten the existence
of individual species (forests)
Localized destruction of the milkweed plant deprives the butterfly
of its nesting environment

Excessive hunting causes the extinction of species e.g., the

manatee whose habitat is the Everglades is threatened by
poaching, also the rhinoceros is threatened by poaching for its
Introduction of nonnative (exotic) species into the ecosystems
can threaten species e.g., the introduction of rabbits into Norfolk
island resulted in the loss of 13 species of vascular plants

The release of toxic chemicals can threaten wildlife e.g., DDT

which threatened the existence of the American bald eagle; DDT
uptake from contaminated prey results in failure to reproduce

El Nino and La Nina are all terms referring to a

phenomenon which has far reaching effects to the
environment. Explain what causes the phenomenon.
What is the relation to global warming and climate
change? Explain the effects of El Nino and the effects of
La Nina on ecosystems and on the different cycles.
Group Assignment

What is an Ecosystem?
What is in an Ecosystem?
Give example or Choose a particular ecosystem
Discuss the biotic and abiotic factors; producers and
consumer in that ecosystem. Draw. Use symbols and arrows
to represent these factors and their relationships.
Record any observations of organisms interacting with each
other or with their environment e.g. insects feeding on
plants or seeking shelter under rocks, mans activities
Discuss in at least one whole sheet of bond paper
For your conclusion : What are the possible effects or
implications of abiotic (physical factors) on the biotic
factors (organisms) in the ecosystem that you chose?
Write your references