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Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Lesson Overview
3.4 Cycles of Matter
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

THINK ABOUT IT
A handful of elements combine to form the building blocks of all
known organisms.
Organisms cannot manufacture these elements and do not “use
them up,” so where do essential elements come from?
How does their availability affect ecosystems?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Recycling in the Biosphere
How does matter move through the biosphere?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Recycling in the Biosphere
How does matter move through the biosphere?
Unlike the one-way flow of energy, matter is recycled within and between
ecosystems.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Recycling in the Biosphere
Unlike the one-way flow of energy, matter is recycled within and between
ecosystems.
Elements pass from one organism to another and among parts of the
biosphere through closed loops called biogeochemical cycles, which are
powered by the flow of energy.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Recycling in the Biosphere
Biogeochemical cycles of matter involve biological processes, geological
processes, and chemical processes.
As matter moves through these cycles, it is never created or destroyed—
just changed.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Biological Processes
Biological processes consist of any and all activities performed by living
organisms.
These processes include eating, breathing, “burning” food, and
eliminating waste products.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Geological Processes
Geological processes include volcanic eruptions, the formation and
breakdown of rock, and major movements of matter within and below
the surface of the earth.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Chemical and Physical Processes
Chemical and physical processes include the formation of clouds and
precipitation, the flow of running water, and the action of lightning.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Human Activity
Human activities that affect cycles of matter on a global scale include
the mining and burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of land for building
and farming, the burning of forests, and the manufacture and use of
fertilizers.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Recycling in the Biosphere
Biogeochemical cycles of matter pass the same atoms and molecules
around again and again.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
How does water cycle through the biosphere?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
How does water cycle through the biosphere?
Water continuously moves between the oceans, the atmosphere, and land
—sometimes outside living organisms and sometimes inside them.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
Water molecules typically enter the atmosphere as water vapor when they
evaporate from the ocean or other bodies of water.
Water can also enter the atmosphere by evaporating from the leaves of
plants in the process of transpiration.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
If the air carrying it cools, water vapor condenses into tiny droplets that
form clouds.
When the droplets become large enough, they fall to Earth’s surface as
precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
On land, some precipitation flows along the surface in what scientists call
runoff, until it enters a river or stream that carries it to an ocean or lake.
Precipitation can also be absorbed into the soil, and is then called
groundwater.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Water Cycle
Groundwater can enter plants through their roots, or flow into rivers,
streams, lakes, or oceans.
Some groundwater penetrates deeply enough into the ground to become
part of underground reservoirs.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Cycles
What is the importance of the main nutrient cycles?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Cycles
What is the importance of the main nutrient cycles?
Every organism needs nutrients to build tissues and carry out life functions.
Like water, nutrients pass through organisms and the environment through
biogeochemical cycles.
The three pathways, or cycles, that move carbon, nitrogen, and
phosphorus through the biosphere are especially critical for life
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Cycles
The chemical substances that an organism needs to sustain life are called
nutrients.
Every organism needs nutrients to build tissues and carry out life functions.
Nutrients pass through organisms and the environment through
biogeochemical cycles.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Cycles
Oxygen participates in parts of the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus
cucles by combining with these elements and cycling with them through
parts of their journeys.
Oxygen gas in the atmosphere is released by one of the most important
of all biological activities: photosynthesis.
Oxygen is used in respiration by all multicellular forms of life, and many
single-celled organisms as well.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Carbon is a major component of all organic compounds, including
carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Carbon dioxide is continually exchanged through chemical and physical
processes between the atmosphere and oceans.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and use the carbon
to build carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates then pass through food webs to consumers.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Organisms release carbon in the form of carbon dioxide gas by
respiration.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
When organisms die, decomposers break down the bodies, releasing
carbon to the environment.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Geologic forces can turn accumulated carbon into carbon-containing
rocks or fossil fuels.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by volcanic activity or by
human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing and
burning of forests.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Carbon Cycle
Important questions remain about the carbon cycle.
How much carbon moves through each pathway?
How do ecosystems respond to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide
concentration?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
All organisms require nitrogen to make amino acids, which are used to
build proteins and nucleic acids, which combine to form DNA and RNA.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78 percent of Earth’s atmosphere.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrogen-containing substances such as ammonia (NH3), nitrate ions
(NO3), and nitrite ions (NO2) are found in soil, in the wastes produced by
many organisms, and in dead and decaying organic matter.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Dissolved nitrogen exists in several forms in the ocean and other large
water bodies.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Although nitrogen gas is the most abundant form of nitrogen on Earth,
only certain types of bacteria that live in the soil and on the roots of
legumes can use this form directly.
The bacteria convert nitrogen gas into ammonia, in a process known as
nitrogen fixation.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Other soil bacteria convert fixed nitrogen into nitrates and nitrites that
primary producers can use to make proteins and nucleic acids.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Consumers eat the producers and reuse nitrogen to make their own
nitrogen-containing compounds.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Decomposers release nitrogen from waste and dead organisms as
ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites that producers may take up again.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Other soil bacteria obtain energy by converting nitrates into nitrogen
gas, which is released into the atmosphere in a process called
denitrification.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
A small amount of nitrogen gas is converted to usable forms by lightning
in a process called atmospheric nitrogen fixation.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Nitrogen Cycle
Humans add nitrogen to the biosphere through the manufacture and use
of fertilizers. Excess fertilizer is often carried into surface water or
groundwater by precipitation.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
Phosphorus forms a part of vital molecules such as DNA and RNA.
Although phosphorus is of great biological importance, it is not abundant
in the biosphere.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
Phosphorus in the form of inorganic phosphate remains mostly on land,
in the form of phosphate rock and soil minerals, and in the ocean, as
dissolved phosphate and phosphate sediments.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
As rocks and sediments wear down, phosphate is released.
Some phosphate stays on land and cycles between organisms and soil.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
Plants bind phosphate into organic compounds when they absorb it from
soil or water.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
Organic phosphate moves through the food web, from producers to
consumers, and to the rest of the ecosystem.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

The Phosphorus Cycle
Other phosphate washes into rivers and streams, where it dissolves.
This phosphate eventually makes its way to the ocean, where marine
organisms process and incorporate it into biological compounds.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation
How does nutrient availability relate to the primary productivity of an
ecosystem?
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation
How does nutrient availability relate to the primary productivity of an
ecosystem?
If ample sunlight and water are available, the primary productivity of an
ecosystem may be limited by the availability of nutrients.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation
Ecologists are often interested in an ecosystem’s primary productivity—the
rate at which primary producers create organic material.
If an essential nutrient is in short supply, primary productivity will be limited.
The nutrient whose supply limits productivity is called the limiting nutrient.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation in Soil
The growth of crop plants is typically limited by one or more nutrients
that must be taken up by plants through their roots.
Most fertilizers contain large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and
potassium, which help plants grow better in poor soil. Carbon is not
included in chemical fertilizers because plants acquire carbon dioxide
from the atmosphere.
Micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, and
manganese are necessary in relatively small amounts, and are
sometimes included in specialty fertilizers.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation in Soil
All nutrient cycles work together like
the gears shown.
If any nutrient is in short supply—if
any wheel “sticks”—the whole
system slows down or stops
altogether.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic
Ecosystems
Oceans are nutrient-poor compared to many land areas.
In the ocean and other saltwater environments, nitrogen is often the
limiting nutrient.
In streams, lakes, and freshwater environments, phosphorus is typically
the limiting nutrient.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic
Ecosystems
Sometimes an aquatic ecosystem receives a large input of a limiting
nutrient—for example, runoff from heavily fertilized fields.
Lesson Overview

Cycles of Matter

Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic
Ecosystems
The result of this runoff can be an algal bloom—a dramatic increase in
the amount of algae and other primary producers due to the increase in
nutrients.
If there are not enough consumers to eat the algae, an algal bloom can
cover the water’s surface and disrupt the functioning of an ecosystem.

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  • 1. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Lesson Overview 3.4 Cycles of Matter
  • 2. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter THINK ABOUT IT A handful of elements combine to form the building blocks of all known organisms. Organisms cannot manufacture these elements and do not “use them up,” so where do essential elements come from? How does their availability affect ecosystems?
  • 3. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Recycling in the Biosphere How does matter move through the biosphere?
  • 4. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Recycling in the Biosphere How does matter move through the biosphere? Unlike the one-way flow of energy, matter is recycled within and between ecosystems.
  • 5. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Recycling in the Biosphere Unlike the one-way flow of energy, matter is recycled within and between ecosystems. Elements pass from one organism to another and among parts of the biosphere through closed loops called biogeochemical cycles, which are powered by the flow of energy.
  • 6. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Recycling in the Biosphere Biogeochemical cycles of matter involve biological processes, geological processes, and chemical processes. As matter moves through these cycles, it is never created or destroyed— just changed.
  • 7. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Biological Processes Biological processes consist of any and all activities performed by living organisms. These processes include eating, breathing, “burning” food, and eliminating waste products.
  • 8. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Geological Processes Geological processes include volcanic eruptions, the formation and breakdown of rock, and major movements of matter within and below the surface of the earth.
  • 9. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Chemical and Physical Processes Chemical and physical processes include the formation of clouds and precipitation, the flow of running water, and the action of lightning.
  • 10. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Human Activity Human activities that affect cycles of matter on a global scale include the mining and burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of land for building and farming, the burning of forests, and the manufacture and use of fertilizers.
  • 11. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Recycling in the Biosphere Biogeochemical cycles of matter pass the same atoms and molecules around again and again.
  • 12. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle How does water cycle through the biosphere?
  • 13. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle How does water cycle through the biosphere? Water continuously moves between the oceans, the atmosphere, and land —sometimes outside living organisms and sometimes inside them.
  • 14. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle Water molecules typically enter the atmosphere as water vapor when they evaporate from the ocean or other bodies of water. Water can also enter the atmosphere by evaporating from the leaves of plants in the process of transpiration.
  • 15. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle If the air carrying it cools, water vapor condenses into tiny droplets that form clouds. When the droplets become large enough, they fall to Earth’s surface as precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
  • 16. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle On land, some precipitation flows along the surface in what scientists call runoff, until it enters a river or stream that carries it to an ocean or lake. Precipitation can also be absorbed into the soil, and is then called groundwater.
  • 17. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Water Cycle Groundwater can enter plants through their roots, or flow into rivers, streams, lakes, or oceans. Some groundwater penetrates deeply enough into the ground to become part of underground reservoirs.
  • 18. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Cycles What is the importance of the main nutrient cycles?
  • 19. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Cycles What is the importance of the main nutrient cycles? Every organism needs nutrients to build tissues and carry out life functions. Like water, nutrients pass through organisms and the environment through biogeochemical cycles. The three pathways, or cycles, that move carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus through the biosphere are especially critical for life
  • 20. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Cycles The chemical substances that an organism needs to sustain life are called nutrients. Every organism needs nutrients to build tissues and carry out life functions. Nutrients pass through organisms and the environment through biogeochemical cycles.
  • 21. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Cycles Oxygen participates in parts of the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cucles by combining with these elements and cycling with them through parts of their journeys. Oxygen gas in the atmosphere is released by one of the most important of all biological activities: photosynthesis. Oxygen is used in respiration by all multicellular forms of life, and many single-celled organisms as well.
  • 22. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Carbon is a major component of all organic compounds, including carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.
  • 23. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Carbon dioxide is continually exchanged through chemical and physical processes between the atmosphere and oceans.
  • 24. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and use the carbon to build carbohydrates. Carbohydrates then pass through food webs to consumers.
  • 25. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Organisms release carbon in the form of carbon dioxide gas by respiration.
  • 26. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle When organisms die, decomposers break down the bodies, releasing carbon to the environment.
  • 27. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Geologic forces can turn accumulated carbon into carbon-containing rocks or fossil fuels.
  • 28. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by volcanic activity or by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and the clearing and burning of forests.
  • 29. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Carbon Cycle Important questions remain about the carbon cycle. How much carbon moves through each pathway? How do ecosystems respond to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration?
  • 30. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle All organisms require nitrogen to make amino acids, which are used to build proteins and nucleic acids, which combine to form DNA and RNA.
  • 31. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Nitrogen gas (N2) makes up 78 percent of Earth’s atmosphere.
  • 32. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Nitrogen-containing substances such as ammonia (NH3), nitrate ions (NO3), and nitrite ions (NO2) are found in soil, in the wastes produced by many organisms, and in dead and decaying organic matter.
  • 33. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Dissolved nitrogen exists in several forms in the ocean and other large water bodies.
  • 34. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Although nitrogen gas is the most abundant form of nitrogen on Earth, only certain types of bacteria that live in the soil and on the roots of legumes can use this form directly. The bacteria convert nitrogen gas into ammonia, in a process known as nitrogen fixation.
  • 35. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Other soil bacteria convert fixed nitrogen into nitrates and nitrites that primary producers can use to make proteins and nucleic acids.
  • 36. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Consumers eat the producers and reuse nitrogen to make their own nitrogen-containing compounds.
  • 37. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Decomposers release nitrogen from waste and dead organisms as ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites that producers may take up again.
  • 38. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Other soil bacteria obtain energy by converting nitrates into nitrogen gas, which is released into the atmosphere in a process called denitrification.
  • 39. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle A small amount of nitrogen gas is converted to usable forms by lightning in a process called atmospheric nitrogen fixation.
  • 40. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Nitrogen Cycle Humans add nitrogen to the biosphere through the manufacture and use of fertilizers. Excess fertilizer is often carried into surface water or groundwater by precipitation.
  • 41. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle Phosphorus forms a part of vital molecules such as DNA and RNA. Although phosphorus is of great biological importance, it is not abundant in the biosphere.
  • 42. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle Phosphorus in the form of inorganic phosphate remains mostly on land, in the form of phosphate rock and soil minerals, and in the ocean, as dissolved phosphate and phosphate sediments.
  • 43. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle As rocks and sediments wear down, phosphate is released. Some phosphate stays on land and cycles between organisms and soil.
  • 44. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle Plants bind phosphate into organic compounds when they absorb it from soil or water.
  • 45. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle Organic phosphate moves through the food web, from producers to consumers, and to the rest of the ecosystem.
  • 46. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter The Phosphorus Cycle Other phosphate washes into rivers and streams, where it dissolves. This phosphate eventually makes its way to the ocean, where marine organisms process and incorporate it into biological compounds.
  • 47. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation How does nutrient availability relate to the primary productivity of an ecosystem?
  • 48. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation How does nutrient availability relate to the primary productivity of an ecosystem? If ample sunlight and water are available, the primary productivity of an ecosystem may be limited by the availability of nutrients.
  • 49. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation Ecologists are often interested in an ecosystem’s primary productivity—the rate at which primary producers create organic material. If an essential nutrient is in short supply, primary productivity will be limited. The nutrient whose supply limits productivity is called the limiting nutrient.
  • 50. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation in Soil The growth of crop plants is typically limited by one or more nutrients that must be taken up by plants through their roots. Most fertilizers contain large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which help plants grow better in poor soil. Carbon is not included in chemical fertilizers because plants acquire carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, and manganese are necessary in relatively small amounts, and are sometimes included in specialty fertilizers.
  • 51. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation in Soil All nutrient cycles work together like the gears shown. If any nutrient is in short supply—if any wheel “sticks”—the whole system slows down or stops altogether.
  • 52. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic Ecosystems Oceans are nutrient-poor compared to many land areas. In the ocean and other saltwater environments, nitrogen is often the limiting nutrient. In streams, lakes, and freshwater environments, phosphorus is typically the limiting nutrient.
  • 53. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic Ecosystems Sometimes an aquatic ecosystem receives a large input of a limiting nutrient—for example, runoff from heavily fertilized fields.
  • 54. Lesson Overview Cycles of Matter Nutrient Limitation in Aquatic Ecosystems The result of this runoff can be an algal bloom—a dramatic increase in the amount of algae and other primary producers due to the increase in nutrients. If there are not enough consumers to eat the algae, an algal bloom can cover the water’s surface and disrupt the functioning of an ecosystem.