Why are the phosphorus, carbon, and nitrogen cycles important to the environment?

1 Answer
Jun 1, 2016

Answer:

These biogeochemical cycles are important to the environment because this is how each respective chemical moves through the environment.

Explanation:

These biogeochemical cycles are important to the environment because this is how each respective chemical moves through the environment. Disrupting these cycles will impact organisms across the planet in multiple ways, as we rely on these cycles for our survival.

(To review each cycle, see these links: phosphorous cycle, nitrogen cycle, and the carbon cycle.)

Every living organism is made up of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphates. Nitrogen and carbon are found in amino acids which make up proteins. Phosphates make up DNA and ATP. Thus, the availability of these elements is of great importance to the existence of living things.

Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, change the distribution of carbon throughout the cycle. The increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing the planet to warm. The carbon cycle and the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere, the earth, and the oceans has acted as a sort of control for the longterm stability of temperatures across the planet.

You can read more about the carbon cycle and climate change on this page from the American Museum of Natural History.

The carbon cycle and its reservoirs of carbon:
http://www.amnh.org/learn/climate/Resource13

Another example of the importance of these biogeochemical cycles is the disruption of the nitrogen cycle by humans, particularly the use of fertilizers. Some have argued that the nitrogen cycle has actually been altered by humans more than any other cycle. You can read about this in detail here.

The increase in nitrates in our waterways from fertilizers changes the chemistry of ecosystems, resulting in algae blooms that deplete dissolved oxygen and cause dead zones.

How too much nitrogen affects oceans, lakes, and other aquatic ecosystems:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/Nitrogen/Effects.html

See these related answers on Socratic on the importance of the carbon cycle, how the phosphorus cycle affects humans, and why is the nitrogen cycle important to living things.