Air, Biosphere


Biogeochemical Cycles


To understand the environment, it is important to understand how organisms and their surroundings interact. Since all organisms use energy, we need to understand how energy can be used and transferred. Because all organisms are made of substances, it is equally important that we understand how chemicals are used and transported through an ecosystem. This exercise will help contribute to our understanding of the movements of compounds in ecosystems. The transport and transformation of substances in the environment are known collectively as biogeochemical cycles. These global cycles involve the circulation of elements and nutrients that sustain both the biological and physical aspects of the environment. For example, all known organisms on this planet depend on water to sustain them. They are constantly cycling water, consuming it on a regular basis either by itself or with nutrients, while expelling water (with waste products) at the same time. Besides being critical for the biosphere, water is also an extremely important part of the physical environment. When water vapor condenses to form clouds, more of the Sun's rays are reflected back into the atmosphere, usually cooling the climate. Conversely, water vapor is also an important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, trapping heat in the infrared part of the spectrum in the lower atmosphere. Water is also involved in other biogeochemical cycles. The hydrologic cycle intersects with almost every other element cycles, as well as some of the geological cycles such as the sedimentary cycle.