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Ecosystem Services Defining Nutrient Recycling

Grade 7
Jun 15, 2023

Ecosystem Services – Nutrient Recycling

Introduction of Nutrients

Nutrients are the substances that organisms require to live.

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus make up all living things, biomolecules, and cells.

These ingredients are necessary for life to exist. For life to exist, it is essential to recycle nutrients in the environment. The ecosystem is capable of total recycling, which means that all waste is recycled.

Essential Nutrients Required for Living Organisms

Essential nutrients are of two types: non-mineral and mineral elements.


Non-mineral elements account for 95% of all living organisms’ mass. Carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) are non-mineral elements (O).

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air and water is a common source of these nutrients (H2O).

Macronutrients and micronutrients are two types of mineral elements.

Macronutrients are chemical substances that plants require in large amounts to carry out basic functions, and their scarcity might limit organism growth. The elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg) are among them.

Micronutrients are consumed in much smaller quantities than macronutrients, yet they are still necessary for growth and metabolism. Boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), and zinc are among the micronutrients (Zn).


Cycling of Nutrients in Forest

Animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria that live above and below ground (the earth is alive!), as well as mineral components of soil, dead leaves and wood, and rain and snowfall water, are all part of the nutrient cycle in forest ecosystems.

Trees and other plants use their roots to absorb the mineral and non-mineral nutrients from the soil.

Plants store these nutrients in their leaves, flowers, and other components. When animals eat the plants, the nutrients are either delivered to the animals or returned to the Earth. Arthropods, earthworms, fungi, and bacteria in the soil, for example, break down plants and animals when they die.

The decomposing material is ground by arthropods and earthworms, which then mix it with the soil. Some of the more complicated substances can be broken down into simpler components by fungi. Because all of these organisms consume and respire most of the material, it eventually decomposes into carbon dioxide gas, which is why it disappears over time.

 Nutrient cycle

Explanation of Nutrient Cycle

It is a cyclic pathway through which an element passes from one organism to another. Recycling is the mechanism in the ecosystem that keeps things going and helps human well-being.

The nutrient cycle is the cyclic pathway by which nutrients are recycled for reuse. Plants and animals use nutrients, which are then returned to the environment after death and decomposition.

The soil bacteria help in the breakdown of organic materials and the conversion of nutrients. They also help the plants absorb nutrients by transferring them into the soil. Nutrient cycling is a cyclic process in which nutrients are transported from the physical environment to living organisms and then back to the environment.

During this process, nutrients are absorbed, transported, released, and reabsorbed. It is a natural nutrition mineral recycling system.

The nutrients consumed by plants and animals are returned to the environment after death and decomposition, and the cycle continues. Microbes in the soil play a crucial role in nutrient recycling. They eat organic stuff and break it down to release nutrients. They are also necessary for trapping and transforming nutrients into the soil that can be absorbed by plant roots.

The rate of nutrient cycling is influenced by a variety of biotic, physical, and chemical variables.

nutrient cycle

Examples of the Nutrient Cycle

Nutrient recycling involves both biotic and abiotic components.

Air, water, and soil are the most important abiotic components.

Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen are recycled in water, air, and soil, but calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and other elements are recycled mostly in soil and are locally available.

The four main nutrient cycles are Carbon cycle, Nitrogen cycle, Oxygen cycle, and Water cycle.

Carbon Cycle

Carbon is the most abundant element in all living cells. Carbon is found in all organic matter and biomolecules.

Carbon is mostly found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane.

Photosynthesis and respiration provide a constant flow of carbon between biotic and abiotic components.

Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide as part of the photosynthesis process.

During respiration, all living creatures release carbon dioxide.

The burning of fossil fuels and automobile emissions release carbon into the atmosphere.

After decomposition, organic carbon from dead and decaying organisms and waste products is released into the atmosphere.

Carbon is necessary for all life because it is the primary component of all living beings. All organic polymers, including carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids, have it as a backbone component. Carbon compounds such as CO2 and CH4 move in the atmosphere and have an impact on world climates. Photosynthesis and respiration are the primary mechanisms by which carbon is exchanged between living and non-living ecosystem components.

CO2 is obtained from the environment by plants and other photosynthetic organisms that use it to produce biological components. Through respiration, plants, animals, and decomposers (bacteria and fungi) return CO2 to the atmosphere. The fast carbon cycle is the flow of carbon through biotic components of the environment.

Carbon moves through the biotic elements of the cycle in a fraction of the time that it takes to move through the abiotic elements. Carbon can take up to 200 million years to flow through abiotic components, including rocks, soil, and the oceans. Hence, this circulation of carbon is called the slow carbon cycle.

carbon cycle

Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen, like carbon, is an essential component of biological molecules. Amino acids and nucleic acids are examples of these compounds. Although nitrogen (N2) is abundant in the atmosphere, most living organisms are unable to manufacture organic molecules using this form of nitrogen. Certain bacteria must first fix or transform atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia (NH3).

Nitrogen is also a necessary part of life. Living organisms cannot use nitrogen directly and must convert it to another form.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia, while nitrifying bacteria convert ammonia to nitrate through the nitrogen fixation process. It is then taken up by plants.

Lightning converts atmospheric nitrogen to nitrates, which are then ingested by plants.

Proteins and amino acids from dead and decaying organic matter and waste products are broken down by decomposers.

Denitrifying bacteria use the process of denitrification to convert ammonia and nitrates into nitrogen and nitrous oxide. Nitrogen is returned to the atmosphere in this way.

Nitrogen Cycle

Oxygen Cycle

Life cannot exist without oxygen. Aquatic species rely on oxygen dissolved in water to survive. The decomposition of biodegradable waste materials requires oxygen.

The main source of oxygen in the atmosphere is photosynthesis.

In the process of respiration, living creatures collect atmospheric oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, which plants utilize for photosynthesis.

Oxygen Cycle

Water Cycle

Water is a necessary component of life on the planet.

Evaporation and transpiration from the surface of plants transfer water from oceans, lakes, rivers, and other reservoirs to vapor on a constant basis.

Water vapors condense and return to the atmosphere as precipitation, continuing the cycle.

When water falls on the Earth and is absorbed and retained, groundwater is formed.

water cycle

Importance of Nutrient Cycle in the Ecosystem

All biological beings, biomolecules, and cells are made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus. These ingredients are necessary for life to exist. For life to exist, it is critical to recycle and replace nutrients in the environment on a regular basis.

Nutrient Cycling is Significant for the Following Reasons:

  • It is needed to convert nutrients from one form to another so that different organisms may use them. For example, plants cannot take atmospheric nitrogen, so it has to be fixed and transformed into ammonium and nitrate before they can use it.
  • Nutrients transfer from one location to another for use, such as from air to soil or water.
  • Nutrient cycles help to keep the ecosystem in balance by storing nutrients for future use.
  • Living organisms interact with their surroundings’ abiotic components through nutrient cycling.
  • The nutrient cycles that move carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen through the biosphere are specifically critical for life.

Influence of Humans on Nutrient Cycles

  1. In a natural ecosystem, nutrients are continuously recycled. Population increases and related human activities such as large-scale farming have created considerable changes in nutrient cycles in recent decades.
  2. Nutrients are taken from the soil when crops are harvested. Animal manure has been used as a fertilizer to replenish nutrients in the soil for millennia, and in many cultures – including Europe and China – human excreta has also been recycled back to agricultural areas. As a result, nutrients returned to the soil at roughly the same rate as they had been taken out. This cycle was disrupted when waterborne sewage was introduced, and it was replaced with a linear system that carries nutrients away from soils and into watercourses.
  3. Agriculture also has an impact on the nutrient cycle in another way: plowing and tilling disturb and expose the soil, causing more nutrients to be washed away with runoff.
  4. Flood control also adds to the natural nutrient cycle being disrupted. Typically, river floods disperse nutrient-rich sediments to lower lands, where ecosystems can use them again. Instead, sediment is trapped in dams or embankments, which keep it in the river until it is washed out to sea. So many nutrients from degraded soil, human and animal waste, and other sources wind up in lakes and oceans, causing gigantic, uncontrollable algae blooms. When they die and sink to the bottom, their decomposition deprives other creatures of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones” and contributing to the loss of oxygen resources.

Difference Between Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycle

Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycle

Nutrient recycling


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