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What is Nutrient Cycling?

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To survive, organisms need nutrients. The natural recycling process is called the nutrient cycle. From one organism to the next, an element travels in a circular pattern. Recycling is the ecological process that supports and makes additional contributions to human welfare.

Nutrient Cycle

The term “nutrient cycle” or “biogeochemical cycle” refers to the movement or exchange of nutrients among the living and nonliving constituents of an ecosystem. The phrase “biogeochemical cycles” refers to the interactions between organic and inorganic elements and focuses on the chemistry and motion of chemical elements and molecules. Nutrient cycling is the process through which components change into different forms and then return to their original state.

The standing state of the soil is the number of nutrients like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, etc. that are present in it at any particular time. The nutrients in the soil are present in a standing state; they are taken up by plants, often referred to as producers, and converted into organic matter. Organic matter is the means through which nutrients from producers are transferred to the higher trophic level. Numerous factors, including biotic, abiotic, chemical, and physical ones, are involved in the cycling of nutrients.

Importance of Nutrient Cycle

All biological things are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus. These components are essential for the existence of life. Recycling and fertilizer replacement is essential for sustainability. The following are some reasons why the nutrition cycle is important:

  • It is necessary for the transformation of nutrients from one form to another so that different species can use them. For instance, before
    nitrogen from the air can be used by plants, it must be fixed, turning it into ammonium and nitrate.
  • The transfer of nutrients from one place to another for use, such as from air to soil or water.
  • The role of nutrient cycles is in keeping the ecosystem in balance by storing nutrients for later use.
  • Through nutrient cycling, living things communicate with the abiotic elements of their environment.
  • The relationship between living and nonliving entities is largely mediated by the food cycle. So, it stands to reason that the nutrient
    a cycle is the most significant ecological process.

Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycle

Energy flow, which refers to both the food chain and the food web, can be described as the movement of energy from one trophic level to another. It is well recognized that the energy flow in an ecosystem is unidirectional, with heat being transferred from one trophic level to another. Here, sunlight is regarded as the best possible source of energy. The transport of nutrients from the physical environment to living organisms and back to the environment is known as “nutrient cycling,” and it is a cyclical process. Where nutrients are recycled further converted into various forms, and then used again on Earth. 

Types of Nutrient Cycle

Depending on their reservoirs, an ecosystem exhibits one of three different nutrient cycles.

  1. Gaseous Cycles: The atmosphere and ocean serve as the primary chemical storage spaces in these cycles. These non-mineral compounds
    are used in this kind of cycle. Examples of this type of nutrient cycle include the Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen cycles.
  2. Sedimentary Cycles: Soil and rocks serve as the primary chemical storage spaces in these cycles. Mineral compounds are part of these
    cycles. Sedimentary cycles include the cycles of phosphorus and sulfur.
  3. Hydrological Cycle: The reservoir in this cycle could be in the soil or the atmosphere. One illustration of this kind is the water cycle.
Types of Nutrient Cycle


Nutrient Cycle Example

The main important nutrient cycles of an ecosystem are:

Carbon Cycle

The carbon cycle is one of the most significant scientific concerns right now. Probably in the news, you have heard of global warming or climate change. Changes in the carbon cycle are to blame for the rise in global temperatures. Between living beings, the Earth, and the atmosphere, carbon is transferred through the carbon cycle. For growth and the creation of new structures, trees absorb carbon dioxide. Animals consume plants and take the carbon in. When living things decompose, their carbon returns to the atmosphere and oceans. Geological activity eventually causes the carbon to be compressed, forming reservoirs of fossil fuels like coal. The fact that fossil fuels are being mined more quickly than they are being replenished is one of the major issues we face today. We emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when we burn them to produce energy, which contributes to global warming.

Carbon Cycle


Nitrogen cycle

Life cannot exist without nitrogen. Nitrogen must be transformed into other organic molecules before it can be consumed by living things.
Nitrogen is changed into other forms in a variety of ways, including:

  • Nitrifying bacteria change ammonia into nitrate, and nitrogen-fixing bacteria change atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Plants take up this nitrate that has been transformed.
  •  Lightning can immediately transform atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates.
  •  The proteins and amino acids of deceased organisms are broken down by decomposers.
  •  Denitrification is the process by which the denitrifying bacteria convert ammonia into nitrogen and nitrates into nitrous oxide.
Nitrogen Cycle


Also Read: Nitrogen Cycle

Oxygen Cycle

Both plants and animals contribute to the atmospheric oxygen cycle. You probably already know that humans and many other species depend on oxygen. Our bodies use the oxygen we breathe in to produce energy through a process known as cellular respiration. We breathe out carbon dioxide, which is released as a waste product during this process. As they produce food and oxygen during photosynthesis, plants take up carbon dioxide. Once the oxygen has been released, the cycle once more begins.

Oxygen Cycle


Hydrologic or Water Cycle

Water Cycle


Life depends critically on the water to exist. The water cycle facilitates the exchange of water between the atmosphere, land, sea, and living things and their ecosystems. The hydrologic cycle, sometimes known as the water cycle, includes several processes such as evaporation, transpiration, cloud formation, and precipitation. The steps in the hydrologic cycle, often known as the water cycle, are as follows:

  1. Evaporation and transpiration are the two processes that transfer water from the Earth into the atmosphere as water vapor. When water hits its boiling point, it starts to evaporate.
  2. Evaporation turns water that is present in lakes, oceans, and other water reservoirs into vapors. Transpiration takes place from the plant’s surface.
  3. Condensation is the process by which water vapors are transformed back into liquid form after having first become vapors due to an increase in temperature.
  4. The precipitation that results from these minute water droplets falling is caused by Earth’s gravity.
  5. Water bodies are filled by rainwater that falls as rain, which is known as runoff or stored as groundwater.

FAQs on Nutrient Cycle

Question 1: What is the nutrition cycle’s primary function?


The ultimate focus of a nutrient cycle is to replenish, reform, and maintain the equilibrium of vital nutrients in an ecosystem so that they are readily available to all living things in forms that they can utilize.

Question 2: How do nutrients work? Mention its varieties.


Nutrients are substances that support life by providing considerable food and guaranteeing a perfect equilibrium in biotic bodies. Simply put, these are nutrients that offer the vital sustenance needed for the body’s upkeep to survive in unusual circumstances. Nutrients can be divided into inorganic and organic compounds.

Question 3: What is a nutrition cycle?


The nutrient cycle is the cyclical process by which nutrients are recycled for usage. After an animal or plant dies and its body decomposes, the nutrients it absorbed are released back into the environment. The soil’s bacteria play a key role in the breakdown of organic matter and its transformation into nutrients. Additionally, they add minerals to the soil that assist the plants absorb those nutrients.

Question 4: What three different types of nutrition cycles are there?


Based on their reservoirs, three different types of nutrient cycles are seen in ecosystems.

  • Gaseous Cycles
  • Sedimentary Cycles
  • Hydrological Cycle

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Last Updated : 17 Feb, 2023
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