2 Nitrogen CycleNitrogen cycle: the routes that nitrogen atoms take through the environmentNitrogen gas (N2) is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere (78%)Nitrogen gas is inert & cannot be used directly by most organisms.Nitrogen is cycled through animals, soil, & gases.Organisms use nitrogen (in various forms) to make vital organic compounds.Nitrogen is an important component of biological molecules: DNA, RNA, & proteins.Nitrogen is a plant nutrient & acts as a limiting factor for plant growth.Too much nitrogen in aquatic systems can cause eutrophication.
3 Abbreviations to know: Several steps:Nitrogen fixationnitrogen to ammoniaNitrificationammonia to nitratesAssimilationnitrates to proteins, DNA, RNA, etc.AmmonificationdecompositionDenitrificationammonia & nitrates to nitrogenAbbreviations to know:nitrogen gas (N2)ammonia (NH3)ammonium ions (NH4+)nitrite ions (NO2-)nitrate ions (NO3-)
4 Nitrogen FixationEven though N2 is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere (78%) it must be fixed or converted into a usable form before it can be absorbed and used by multicellular organisms.Ways of converting N2:1. lightningcauses reaction with O2 to form NO3-2. Nitrogen fixation: N2 is combined (fixed) with H2 to become ammonia, NH3whose water-soluble ions of ammonium, NH4+, can be taken up by plantsDone by nitrogen-fixing bacteria
5 Nitrogen Fixation Specialized bacteria convert N2 gas to ammonia (NH3) N2 + 3H2 2NH3Once converted into ammonia, water-soluble ions in the form of ammonium (NH4+) can be taken up by plantsDone mostly by:Cyanobacteria in soil & waterRhizobium bacteria in nodules on roots of wide variety of plants(ex. legumes, soybeans,& alfalfa)Requires large amounts of energy
6 NitrificationNitrification: bacteria convert ammonium ions, NH4+ (the water soluble form of ammonia, NH3, which is usually produced by decay) through a 2-step process into NO2- (nitrite) & NO3- (nitrate)Done by 2 groups of specialized aerobic nitrifying bacteria (for use by plants) to:1. Nitrite ions (NO2-)toxic to plantsNitrosomonasNitrosococcus2. Nitrate ions (NO3-)easily taken up by plants as a nutrient through rootsNitrobacter
8 Assimilation Assimilation Plant roots absorb inorganic ammonia (NH3), ammonium ions (NH4+), & nitrate ions (NO3-).Formed by nitrification (NH3 NH4+ NO2- NO3-) & nitrogen fixation (N2 + 3H2 2NH3).Ions are used to makeN-containing organicmolecules such as:DNA & RNAAmino AcidsProteinsAnimals get their N by eating plants or plant-eating animalsAssimilationNH3
9 AmmonificationBacteria in soil & water decompose N-rich organic compounds, wastes, cast-off particles & dead organisms into:1. simpler N-containing inorganic compounds such as ammonia (NH3)2. water-soluble salts containing ammonium ions (NH4+)
10 DenitrificationDentrification: other specialized bacteria convert ammonia back into gaseous nitrogen through a multistep process:Ammonia (NH3) & ammonium ions (NH4+) nitrite ions (NO2-) & nitrate ions (NO3-) nitrogen gas (N2) & nitrous oxide gas (N2O)Done by denitrifying bacteria deep in soil & aquatic sedimentsAnaerobic conditions… So… use nitrates as an alternative to oxygen for the final electron acceptor in their respiration.Replenish atmosphere & close the nitrogen cycle
11 Humans Affect the Nitrogen Cycle Haber-Bosch process: synthetic production of fertilizers by combining nitrogen & hydrogen to synthesize ammoniaDramatically changed the nitrogen cycle since devised in 1950shuge increases in crop yields (due to fertilization)…cheaplyHumans are fixing more nitrogen than nature doesReduced biodiversity of plants adapted to low-nitrogen soilsCalcium & potassium in soil washed out by fertilizers (depletion)Acidified water & soilsDisposing of N-rich municipal sewageRaising cattle in feedlots adjacent to waterways (wastes in runoff)Changed estuaries & coastal ecosystems & fisheriesN in run-off causes bloom in algae & aquatic plants (eutrophication)When photosythesizers die in the water their decomposition by bacteria removes O2 from the water (hypoxia) & causes death of other organisms.Burning fossil fuels & grasslands & deforestation removes N from the soil & produces NOx (a precursor for acid rain & ozone depletion)Decomposition of wastes & commercial nitrogen fertilizers produces N2O (greenhouse gas)
12 Effects of Human Activities on the Nitrogen Cycle Human activities such as production of fertilizers now fix more nitrogen than all natural sources combined.
13 Human Inputs of N Into the Environment Fully half of nitrogen entering the environment is of human origin