Phosphorous cycle
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Phosphorous Cycle. Miss. Pierre. Phosphorus  is an essential nutrient for plants and animals in the form of ions PO 4 3-  and HPO 4 2- . It is a part of DNA and RNA molecules, as well as the energy storage molecule (ATP and ADP) and of fats of cell membranes.

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Phosphorous Cycle

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Phosphorous cycle

Phosphorous Cycle

Miss. Pierre


Phosphorous cycle

  • Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and animals in the form of ions PO43- and HPO42-. It is a part of DNA and RNA molecules, as well as the energy storage molecule (ATP and ADP) and of fats of cell membranes.

  • Phosphorus like Calcium is a building block of certain parts of human and animal bodies i.e. 80% of phosphorous is found in bones and teeth.

  • Phosphorus can be found on earth in water, soil and sediments. Unlike the compounds of other matter cycles phosphorus cannot be found in air in the gaseous state. Although small amounts of phosphoric acid (H3PO4) may make their way into the atmosphere, contributing ? in some cases ? to acid rain.

  • This is because phosphorus is usually liquid at normal temperatures and pressures. It is mainly cycling through water, soil and sediments. In the atmosphere phosphorus can mainly be found as very small dust particles. The largest reservoir of phosphorus is in sedimentary rock.


Phosphorous cycle

  • It is in these rocks where the phosphorus cycle begins. When it rains, phosphates are removed from the rocks (via weathering) and are distributed throughout both soils and water. Plants take up the phosphate ions from the soil. The phosphates then moves from plants to animals when herbivores eat plants and carnivores eat plants or herbivores. The phosphates absorbed by animal tissue through consumption eventually returns to the soil through the excretion of urine and feces, as well as from the final decomposition of plants and animals after death.

  • The same process occurs within the aquatic ecosystem. Phosphorus is not highly soluble, binding tightly to molecules in soil, therefore it mostly reaches waters by traveling with run-off soil particles. Phosphates also enter waterways through fertilizer runoff, sewage seepage, natural mineral deposits, and wastes from other industrial processes. These phosphates tend to settle on ocean floors and lake bottoms. As sediments are stirred up, phosphates may reenter the phosphorus cycle, but they are more commonly made available to aquatic organisms by being exposed through erosion. Water plants take up the waterborne phosphate which then travels up through successive stages of the aquatic food chain.

  • Phosphorus moves slowly from deposits on land and in sediments, to living organisms, and than much more slowly back into the soil and water sediment. The phosphorus cycle is the slowest one of the matter cycles that are described here.


Phosphorous cycle

  • Phosphorus is most commonly found in rock formations and ocean sediments as phosphate salts. Phosphate salts that are released from rocks through weathering usually dissolve in soil water and will be absorbed by plants. Because the quantities of phosphorus in soil are generally small, it is often the limiting factor for plant growth. That is why humans often apply phosphate fertilizers on farmland.

  • Phosphates are also limiting factors for plant-growth in marine ecosystems, because they are not very water-soluble. Animals absorb phosphates by eating plants or plant-eating animals.

  • Phosphorus cycles through plants and animals much faster than it does through rocks and sediments. When animals and plants die, phosphates will return to the soils or oceans again during decay. After that, phosphorus will end up in sediments or rock formations again, remaining there for millions of years.

  • Eventually, phosphorus is released again through weathering and the cycle starts over.


Effects of humans

Effects of Humans

  • Humans can alter the phosphorus cycle in many ways, including in the cutting of tropical rain forests and through the use of agricultural fertilizers.

  • Rainforest ecosystems are supported primarily through the recycling of nutrients, with little or no nutrient reserves in their soils. As the forest is cut and/or burned, nutrients originally stored in plants and rocks are quickly washed away by heavy rains, causing the land to become unproductive.

  • Agricultural runoff provides much of the phosphate found in waterways. Crops often cannot absorb all of the fertilizer in the soils, causing excess fertilizer runoff and increasing phosphate levels in rivers and other bodies of water.

  • At one time the use of laundry detergents contributed to significant concentrations of phosphates in rivers, lakes, and streams, but most detergents no longer include phosphorus as an ingredient.


Effects of humans1

Effects of Humans

  • This excessive concentration of phosphorus is considered a pollutant. Phosphate stimulates the growth of plankton and plants, favoring weedy species over others. Excess growth of these plants tend to consume large amounts of dissolved oxygen, potentially suffocating fish and other marine animals, while also blocking available sunlight to bottom dwelling species. This is known as eutrophication.


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