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The phosphorus cycle is the biogeochemical cycle that describes the movement of phosphorus through the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Unlike many other biogeochemical cycles, the atmosphere does not play a significant role in the movements of phosphorus, because phosphorus and phosphorus-based compounds are usually solids at the typical ranges of temperature and pressure found on Earth.
Phosphorus in the environment
Phosphorus normally occurs in nature as part of a phosphate ion, consisting of a phosphorus atom and some number of oxygen atoms, the most abundant form (called orthophosphate) having four oxygens: PO4-. Most phosphates are found as salts in ocean sediments or in rocks. Over time, geologic processes can bring ocean sediments to land, and weathering will carry terrestrial . Plants absorb phosphates from the soil. The plants may then be consumed by herbivores who in turn may be consumed by carnivores. After death, the animal or plant decays, and the phosphates are returned to the soil. Runoff may carry them back to the ocean or they may be reincorporated into rock.
The primary biological importance of phosphates is as a component of nucleotides, which serve as energy storage within cells (ATP) or when linked together, form the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. Phosphorus is also found in bones, whose strength is derived from calcium phosphate, and in phospholipids (found in all biological membranes).
Phosphates move quickly through plants and animals; however, the processes that move them through the soil or ocean are very slow, making the phosphorus cycle overall one of the slowest biogeochemical cycles.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Phosphorus_cycle". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|