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The Phosphorus Cycle PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Chirag Tamboli Jacob Wall. The Phosphorus Cycle. What is Phosphorous and Why do We need it. Phosphorus is a chemical element with symbol P and atomic number 15. It is an essential nutrient for living organisms and also a limiting factor

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The Phosphorus Cycle

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Chirag Tamboli

Jacob Wall

The Phosphorus Cycle

What is Phosphorous and Why do We need it

  • Phosphorus is a chemical element with symbol P and atomic number 15.

  • It is an essential nutrient for living organisms and also a limiting factor

  • It is a part of Nucleic Acids (DNA and RNA), energy molecules (ATP and ADP), and of fats

  • Phosphorus is a building block of certain animal and human parts

    • Examples of this are teeth and bones

Where is Phosphorus located

  • It can be found on earth in water, soil, and ocean sediments

  • Phosphorus is also present in bird droppings called “Guano”

  • Phosphorus in the environment usually exists as phosphate ions (PO43-)

  • Almost always, phosphorus cannot be found in the atmosphere in a gaseous state

    • If it is found in the atmosphere, then it is usually in very fine dust particles

  • It is most commonly found in rock formations and ocean sediments as phosphate salts

  • On the surface, phosphorus is most commonly found in apatite rock [Ca5(PO4)3OH]

Movement of the Phosphorus Cycle

  • The phosphorus cycle is very slow

  • It starts off in phosphate bearing rocks; when they are weathered or mined it gets distributed in rivers, lakes, and soil

  • Plants then absorb the phosphorus, then herbivorous and omnivorous animals ingest the plant, and in turn absorb the phosphorus

  • It is released back into the soil and ocean sediment through animal excretion and the decomposition of animals and plants

Phosphorus Bearing Rocks/Sediments

  • Phosphate deposits form over time into layers of sediment at the bottom of oceans and as rock formations on land

  • Phosphorus can be trapped in sediment for over 100 million years

  • Natural geological processes push the sediment layers up and expose them on the surface

  • Weathering, erosion, or human mining of rocks gradually release phosphorus as phosphate ions, which are soluble in water

  • From here, the phosphate ions enter the soil and bodies of water

Phosphorus enters Plants & Organisms

  • Phosphates from soils, fertilizers, and aquatic sediments are first absorbed by plants

  • Phosphates flow from plants to animals by consumption

    • Herbivores (Primary Consumers) eat the plants

    • Carnivores and omnivores (secondary and tertiary consumers) eat the primary consumers

  • This is the quickest stage when compared to the rest of them

Return into the Environment

  • Phosphorus is returned to the environment in different ways:

    • Excretion and Urination: Animal waste is broken down by decomposers which returns phosphates back into the soil

      • A large percentage of phosphorus is wasted through excretion

    • Death:

      • When plants and animals die, bacteria and other decomposers break down organic material and release phosphate ions back into the soil

      • When aquatic plants and animals die, phosphate ions bind to ocean sediments at the ocean floor, creating new deposits

    • Phosphates in the soil runoff or drain into different bodies of water

  • Over a timespan of millions of year, geological processes push sediment layers up, restarting the cycle




Human Impacts

  • Caused mainly through the use of commercial synthetic fertilizers

    • Plants are not able to use all of the phosphate in the soil or water, resulting in runoff into streams, rivers, lakes, etc.

      • The resulting runoff creates algal blooms that deprive aquatic life of oxygen

  • The improper application of manure as fertilizer

    • When manure is put down in the winter, it can be lost as runoff in the spring

  • Deforestation:

    • As forests are cut, nutrients originally stored in plants and rocks are quickly washed away by heavy rains, making the land unproductive. Unproductive land results in the extensive use of fertilizers

  • Wastewater and sewage treatment plants are not efficiently removing phosphorus and phosphates from water

    • This creates causes extra phosphate to enter water sources.

Works Cited







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