Why Is the Phosphorus Cycle Important?| Steps of Phosphorus Cycle | Role of Phosphorus in Animals and Plants
What Is Phosphorus Cycle?
Phosphorus cycle is a biogeochemical cycle in which phosphorus moves through the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.
Unlike many other biogeochemical cycles, phosphorus transport is mostly unaffected by the atmosphere because phosphorus and phosphorus-based compounds are typically solids at the typical temperature and pressure ranges found on Earth.
Only particular, local conditions allow for the synthesis of phosphine gas. Thus, the phosphorus cycle should be studied holistically and then specifically in terrestrial and aquatic systems.
On land, phosphorus becomes increasingly unavailable to plants over thousands of years, as it is gradually lost to runoff.
Low phosphorus levels in soils inhibit plant development and impede soil microbial growth, as demonstrated by investigations of soil microbial biomass.
In the biogeochemical cycle, soil microorganisms operate as both sinks and providers of accessible phosphorus. Phosphorus undergoes short-term chemical, biological, or microbiological change. However, during the long-term world cycle, the major transfer is caused by tectonic activity.
Humans have altered the global phosphorus cycle significantly by the transportation of phosphorus minerals and the usage of phosphorus fertilizer and the transportation of food from fields to cities, where it is lost as effluent.
Steps of Phosphorus Cycle
Following are the important steps of the phosphorus cycle:
Phosphorus Cycle Step 1: Weathering
Phosphorus is abundant in rocks. That is why the phosphorus cycle begins in the crust of the earth. Phosphate salts are extracted from rocks. These salts are washed into the earth and incorporated into the soil.
Rain and weathering trigger the release of phosphate ions and other minerals from rocks throughout time. This inorganic phosphate is then dispersed throughout soils and bodies of water.
Phosphorus Cycle Step 2: Absorption by Plants
Plants absorb the phosphate salts dissolved in water. However, the soil contains a negligible amount of phosphorus. That is why farmers treat agricultural land using phosphate fertilizers.
Aquatic plants take up inorganic phosphorus from the water’s lower layers. Because phosphate salts do not dissolve correctly in water, they have an adverse effect on plant growth in aquatic settings.
Phosphorus Cycle Step 3: Absorption by Animals
The animals obtain phosphorus either directly from the plants or indirectly through the consumption of plant-eating animals. When compared to rocks, the rate of the phosphorus cycle is faster in plants and animals.
Phosphorus Cycle Step 4: Return of Phosphorus Back to the Ecosystem
When plants and animals die, bacteria degrade them. The organic form of phosphorus is transformed during this process to the inorganic form, which is recycled into the soil and water.
Soil and water will eventually end up in sediments and rocks, which will weather and release phosphorus. As a result, the phosphorus cycle is restarted.
The Role of Phosphorus in Animals and Plants
Phosphorus is a nutrient that both animals and plants require. It is necessary for cell formation and is a component of energy-storing molecules such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), DNA, and lipids (fats and oils). Inadequate phosphorus levels in the soil might result in reduced agricultural yields.
Why Is the Phosphorus Cycle Important?
Ecological Importance of Phosphorus
Phosphorus is a nutrient that both plants and animals require. For aquatic species, phosphorus is a scarce nutrient. Phosphorus is a component of numerous vital life-sustaining compounds found throughout the biosphere.
Phosphorus does enter the atmosphere in trace amounts when the dust is dissolved in rainwater and seaspray, but it is largely retained on land in the form of rock and soil minerals. 80% of the phosphorus extracted is used to manufacture fertilizers.
Phosphates can contaminate lakes and streams as a result of fertilizers, sewage, and detergents. Excessive phosphate enrichment in both fresh and inshore marine environments can result in huge algal blooms.
Eutrophication occurs in freshwater when these blooms die and degrade. These freshwater algal blooms are distinct from those found in saltwater habitats.
A recent study indicates that nitrogen is the primary pollutant causing algal blooms in saltwater estuaries and coastal marine ecosystems.
Phosphorus’ biological role
Phosphates have the greatest biological significance as a component of nucleotides, which act as energy storage within cells (ATP) or create the nucleic acids DNA and RNA when joined together.
Our DNA’s double helix is only conceivable due to the phosphate ester bridge that connects the helix.
Apart from being a component of biomolecules, phosphorus is found in bone and the enamel of mammalian teeth, which is made of calcium phosphate in the form of hydroxyapatite.
Additionally, it is found in insects’ exoskeletons and phospholipids (found in all biological membranes).
Additionally, it acts as a buffering agent in the human body, assisting in the maintenance of acid-base equilibrium.
Why Is Phosphorus Important?
Phosphorus is primarily involved in the making developments of bones and teeth. It is critical in the way the body utilizes carbohydrates and lipids. Additionally, it is required for the body to produce protein for cell and tissue growth, maintenance, and repair.
A significant proportion of the phosphorus in fertilizer comes from phosphate rock, a scarce resource generated in the earth’s crust over millions of years.
90% of the world’s mined phosphate rock is utilized in agriculture and food production, primarily as fertilizer and to a lesser extent as animal feed and food additives.
Why Is Phosphorus Important to Living Organisms?
Phosphorus is necessary for organisms because it aids in the formation of critical molecules such as DNA and RNA. The primary productivity of an ecosystem is determined by the pace at which producers generate organic matter. When a nutrient is scarce, it restricts an organism’s growth.
Phosphorus is a nutrient that both animals and plants require. It is necessary for cell formation and is a component of energy-storing molecules such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), DNA, and lipids (fats and oils)
When other organisms consume plants and algae, they can transfer phosphorus to them. When animals die and are broken down by bacteria, they either emit phosphorous through urination or feaces.
How Do Animals Obtain Phosphorus?
Phosphates are absorbed by animals through their diets of plants or plant-eating animals. Phosphorus is obtained by humans and other animals from plant consumption and is used to form bones, teeth, and shells. Additionally, it is a critical component of cell membranes, DNA, RNA, and ATP.
Phosphorus is eliminated in the urine as phosphate and organic phosphate molecules. Phosphorus is recycled by soil bacteria for plant absorption, making it available to all animals. The average human body has 1 3/4 lb of Phosphates, the majority of which is contained in bones.
The remaining is used for various bodily functions, such as red blood cell metabolism and ATP synthesis. ATP is a highly energetic molecule that powers the functioning of the body’s cells
Muscle contractions are fueled by the energy released when phosphate is removed from ATP. Because ATP is rapidly degraded in muscle cells during contraction, it must be constantly regenerated to deliver energy to the cells.
When animals and plants die, phosphates degrade and return to the soils and oceans. Following that, phosphorus will re-enter sediments or rock formations, where it will remain for millions of years.
Eventually, phosphorus is released back into the environment via weathering, and the cycle begins again.
How Do Plants Get Phosphorus?
Phosphorus is obtained by plants from the soil. Farmers amend the soil with phosphorus, typically in the form of synthetic fertilizer or livestock manure, to replace what is lost when plants develop and are harvested for human food or animal feed.
Organic materials such as manure, plant residues, or green manure crops applied in large quantities to soils with high pH values give phosphorus and produce acidic chemicals that increase the availability of mineral forms of phosphorus in the soil.
Sources Of Phosphorus for Plants/Animals
Apart from human urine, a variety of naturally occurring phosphorus sources can be utilized in the garden, including bat guano (or excrement), bone meal, crab and shrimp waste, burned cucumber peels, and hair and mushroom compost. The nutritional content of various sources varies significantly.
Again, significant organic sources of phosphorus include some manures, bone meal, and pulverized rock phosphate. Rock phosphate is a phosphorus-rich rock that has been pulverized into small particles that slowly release their phosphorus over time.
Phosphorus is present naturally in protein-rich foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and dairy products.
Why Is Phosphorus Important in Soil?
Phosphorus is an extremely stable element chemically. Fertilizer phosphorus does not go far from the application site due to its quick reaction to the soil.
It rapidly binds to iron and aluminum in the soil, rendering it unavailable to plants, particularly when the soil pH is less than 5.0. (CaCl2).
The phrase CaCl2 following the pH value indicates that the pH was determined in a calcium chloride solution, the method favored by the majority of soil scientists. When pH is measured in CaCl2, it is 0.5-0.8 pH lower than when pH is measured in water.
Due to the ease with which phosphorus is fixed in the soil, crops and pastures absorb just 5–20% of the phosphorus supplied to the soil.
When phosphorus is distributed in permanent pastures, it accumulates on the soil surface and becomes readily available to plants when moisture conditions allow roots to develop to the surface. However, if the surface soil dries out, it becomes less available to plants.
Due to the ease with which phosphorus is fixed in the soil, plants may utilize just a tiny proportion of the phosphorus applied. As a result, it is critical to apply phosphorus annually and evaluate your soil for phosphorus levels regularly.
How Does Phosphorus Affect the Earth?
Excess phosphorus can contribute to the development of algae and enormous aquatic plants, resulting in a fall in dissolved oxygen levels — a process known as eutrophication.
Additionally, elevated phosphorus levels can result in algae blooms that create algal toxins that are detrimental to human and animal health.
What Is Eutrophication?
Eutrophication is the process of nutrient enrichment of water, which results in structural changes to the aquatic ecosystem, such as algal blooms, deoxygenation, and species loss. The principal sources of eutrophication are nitrogen and phosphorus.
Eutrophication happens when these two ingredients exceed the capacity of the water body. When phosphorus enters lakes, it accumulates in the sediments and biosphere; however, it can also be recycled through the sediments and water system.
Phosphorus and nitrogen are also carried by drainage water from agricultural areas. Due to the high concentration of phosphorus in the soil, excessive fertilization and nutrient enrichment will result in an increase in the amount of phosphorus in agricultural runoff.
When eroded soil reaches the lake, both the phosphate and nitrogen in the soil contribute to eutrophication, as does erosion caused by deforestation, which also occurs as a result of haphazard planning and urbanization.
How Do Humans Impact the Phosphorus Cycle?
Because nutrients are necessary for the growth and survival of living species, they are also necessary to form and maintain healthy ecosystems.
Humans have significantly impacted the phosphorus cycle through phosphorus mining, fertilizer conversion, and global shipment of fertilizer and products.
Transporting phosphorus in food from fields to cities has altered the global phosphorus cycle significantly. However, excessive nutrients, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen, harm aquatic ecosystems.
Waters are enhanced with phosphorus as a result of farm runoff and effluent that is not properly treated before it is dumped into bodies of water.
The addition of phosphorus to agricultural runoff can hasten the eutrophication of phosphorus-sensitive surface waterways. Natural eutrophication is a process that occurs over thousands of years and causes lakes to gradually mature and become more productive.
However, cultural or anthropogenic eutrophication is a form of water pollution caused by an excess of plant nutrients; this results in excess of algal growth, which depletes the water of oxygen when the algae die.
This eutrophication process may potentially result in harmful algal blooms. Both of these consequences result in an increase in animal and plant mortality rates, as plants absorb poisonous water and animals consume poisoned water.
Runoff from the surface and subsurface and erosion from high-phosphorus soils may be significant contributors to this eutrophication of freshwater.
The processes that control the release of soil phosphorus to surface runoff and subsurface flow involve complicated interactions between the type of phosphorus input, the soil type and management, and the transport processes that occur under various hydrological conditions.
When applied in excess of crop requirements, repeated applications of liquid hog manure can have a deleterious effect on the soil phosphorus status. Additionally, the use of biosolids may enhance the amount of phosphorus accessible in the soil.
Reduced conditions can be achieved in 7–10 days in poorly drained soils or in areas where snowmelt might induce recurrent waterlogging. This results in a significant increase in the concentration of phosphorus in the solution, and phosphorus can be leached.
Additionally, soil degradation results in a phosphorus shift from resilient to more labile forms.
This could eventually result in an increase in the risk of phosphorus loss. This is especially important for the environmentally responsible management of such places, where agricultural waste disposal has already become an issue.
It is proposed that when developing waste management laws, the water regime of soils to be used for organic waste disposal be considered.
Human influence with the phosphorus cycle occurs when phosphorus fertilizers are used excessively or carelessly.
This results in an increase in the amount of phosphorus in bodies of water as pollutants, leading to eutrophication. Eutrophication wreaks havoc on aquatic habitats by establishing anoxic conditions.