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What is Matter Cycles and its Types

Grade 5
Aug 19, 2022

Key Concepts

  • How matter cycles between organisms and their environment
  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Water cycle
  • Oxygen cycle
  • Carbon cycle
  • Nitrogen Cycle

Matter cycles between the air, soil, plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment. 

The cycling of matter can be broken up into individual cycles like the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, and water cycle 

The carbon cycle includes processes like photosynthesis, respiration, combustion, nutrition, industrial processes, diffusion, and decomposition. The nitrogen cycle includes various processes completed by bacteria in the soil, including decomposition by bacteria and fungi. The water cycle simply involves the moving of water around the world through precipitation, evaporation, the flow of rivers and so forth. Humans also involve themselves in matter cycling through composting, crop rotation, use of fertilizers, and other chemicals. 

Cycling of matter help in the regulation of natural elements that are necessary for living beings by channelling through physical and biological phenomenon. It acts as a recycling procedure in nature. 

How matter cycles between organisms and their environment: 

Energy flows through an ecosystem while matter cycles within it. 


Energy enters an ecosystem when producers carry out photosynthesis

During this process, matter from the environment is taken in and rearranged into organic molecules (sugars).  

Energy and matter move up the trophic levels of an ecosystem as producers are eaten by primary consumers, which are then eaten by secondary consumers, and so on 

Dead producers, consumers, and their waste products provide matter and energy to decomposers. Decomposers transform matter back into inorganic forms that can be recycled within the ecosystem. 

The matter in an ecosystem is continuously recycled as atoms are combined and recombined in different ways. 


Biogeochemical cycle:  

Biogeochemical cycles are pathways by which nutrients flow between the biotic and abiotic compartments of the earth. The abiotic portion of the earth includes the lithosphere (the geological component of the earth) and the hydrosphere (the earth’s water). The biotic portion of the earth includes the biosphere. 

The importance of the biogeochemical cycles is given below: 

  1. It will transform the matter from one form to another, which helps in the optimization of matter in a form specific to a particular organism. For example, water in liquid form is utilized by the human. 
  1. It facilitates the storage of the elements. For example, the nitrogen cycle help in nitrogen fixation. 
  1. It will help in the functioning of the ecosystem. 
  1. It connects different variants of the ecosystem, such as living organisms to other living organisms, living organisms to non-living organisms. 

The area near the surface of the earth can be divided up into four interconnected geo-spheres that make up the carbon cycle; these include: 

Lithosphere Hydrosphere Biosphere Atmosphere 

  • Lithosphere: ‘Litho’ referring to rocks and minerals.  
  • Hydrosphere: ‘Hydro’ referring to water. 
  • Biosphere: ‘Bio’ referring to life.  
  • Atmosphere: ‘Atmo’ referring to steam and vapor. 

Water cycle:  

  • The heat from the sun causes water to evaporate from oceans, lakes, and streams. Evaporation occurs when liquid water on the earth’s surface turns into water vapor in our atmosphere. 
  • Water from plants and trees also enters the atmosphere. This is called transpiration
  • Warm water vapor rises up through the earth’s atmosphere. As the water vapor rises higher and higher, the cool air of the atmosphere causes the water vapor to turn back into liquid water, creating clouds. This process is called condensation
  • When a cloud becomes full of liquid water, it falls from the sky as rain or snow—also known as precipitation. Rain and snow then fill lakes and streams, and the process starts all over again. 
Fig 1

Oxygen cycle: 

  • The oxygen cycle is a biological process that helps maintain the oxygen level by moving through three main spheres of the earth: atmosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. 

Stage-1: All green plants, during the process of photosynthesis, release oxygen back into the atmosphere as a by-product. 

Stage-2: All aerobic organisms use free oxygen for respiration. 

Stage-3: Animals exhale carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, which the plants again use during photosynthesis. Now oxygen is balanced within the atmosphere. 

Fig 2

Carbon cycle: 

Following are the major steps involved in the process of the carbon cycle: 

  1. Carbon present in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants for photosynthesis. 
  1. These plants are then consumed by animals, and carbon gets accumulated into their bodies. 
  1. These animals and plants eventually die, and upon decomposing, carbon is released back into the atmosphere. 
  1. Some of the carbon that is not released back into the atmosphere eventually becomes fossil fuels. 
  1. These fossil fuels are then used for man-made activities, which pumps more carbon back into the atmosphere. 
Fig 3

Nitrogen cycle: 

  • The nitrogen cycle is a biogeochemical process through which nitrogen is converted into many forms, consecutively passing from the atmosphere to the soil to organism and back into the atmosphere. 
  • It involves several processes such as nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification, decay, and putrefaction. 
  • Nitrogen gas exists in both organic and inorganic forms. Organic nitrogen exists in living organisms, and they get passed through the food chain by the consumption of other living organisms. 
Fig 4


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