How does nitrogen cycle through the land and ocean ecosystems?

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Josiah Share
Jun 5, 2016


There are three main ways that nitrogen is cycled in the atmosphere: Biological, Chemical/Physical, and Human.


- As nitrogen is taken from the atmosphere, it goes to bacteria in the soil. These bacteria can make it into ammonia, also known as nitrogen fixation, and that allows for other bacteria to make it into another form of nitrogen called nitrate. This now-called nitrate can be used by plants.

The plants provide food for animals, and the animals then excrete the extra protein, decomposed by decomposers. Excess nitrogen is joined back together, known as denitrification. Now, the bacteria can start the process all over again. This video might help you:

- When nitrogen is taken from the atmosphere by humans, they usually make it into fertilizer. They use this fertilizer to allow plants to grow quicker, better, and more healthy. When there is too much fertilizer, it might harm an aquatic ecosystem. When there is too much of a nutrient, known as a limiting nutrient, algal bloom occurs. This is when algae float to the top of the water and prevent sunlight from coming through, causing organisms in the water to lose much of their food source. There is not really a way that humans give nitrogen back into the atmosphere naturally.

- Lightning can actually strike between two nitrogen molecules and cause them to be fixated and usable by plants/bacteria in the soil.

- The same process that occurs biologically occurs in the ocean. Bacteria in the ocean take the nitrogen, make it into ammonium, then into nitrate. Now, it is used by primary producers, eaten by consumers, and excreted out. The decomposers can now decompose the waste. The bacteria perform denitrification and release nitrogen into the atmosphere.

Sources: Biology class, biology textbook, and this video that could help you further: Nitrogen Cycle

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