Phosphorus is an essential element to all living organisms. It is part of our DNA and RNA, and it forms the molecule ATP, which gives all living things energy.
This lesson explains its importance and will walk you through the steps of the phosphorus cycle.
The Phosphorus Cycle – Definition
Phosphorus is an essential element to all life. It is an important part of the ATP molecule that stores and gives every cell its energy. It is also found in DNA and RNA, which tell the cells how to look and act. Needless to say, phosphorus is needed for every living organism to grow and function. The phosphorus cycle is the process in which phosphorus travels from its main source of rocks through ecosystems to living organisms.
Steps to the Phosphorus Cycle
The phosphorus cycle begins its journey in the crust of the Earth as phosphorous is found in rocks.
Weathering causes it to break free from the rocks and wash away into the ground. At this time, the phosphorus gets mixed in the soil. Land plants are now able to soak up the phosphorus from the ground.
Animals obtain the phosphorus by eating the plants.Sometimes the phosphorus just gets washed up into the water supply. Aquatic plants and other producers are able to obtain phosphorus directly from the water.
Animals, too, can get phosphorus from drinking the water.The phosphorus is returned to the Earth in different ways. Plants and producers that are not eaten will die, and their phosphorus will be broken down when they decay.
This will return the phosphorus back to the earth to mix with the soil or water. Then new producers that use the soil or water will be able to use the phosphorus. Humans and other animals return phosphorus through our waste. When our waste gets broken down, the phosphorus goes into the water system.Even though phosphorus gets passed on from the ground to producer to animal and then returns back to the land or water, the phosphorus cycle is still not a true cycle. In a true cycle, all the phosphorus will continue to circulate through the cycle. However, in the actual phosphorus cycle, some of the phosphorus will get lost.
The phosphorus that is returned to the ocean may sink to the bottom and become inaccessible and unusable. The only usable phosphorus will remain at the surface of the water.This loss of phosphorus means that there is a limited supply. Plants return the phosphorus to the ground after they decompose. When farmers harvest crops, they remove the crops and the phosphorus that goes along with them.
This soil will eventually run out of phosphorus and will either be no longer able to grow plants or have to be artificially filled with nutrients. Farmers use fertilizer to make up for this loss. The supply is still limited.
Phosphorus is an essential element. It is a vital part of our energy supply and our DNA.
Without it, we living organisms could not grow or function. The phosphorus cycle is a limited cycle that travels from rock to ground or water to producers to animals. Some of the phosphorus gets lost at the bottom of the ocean. Therefore, the phosphorus cycle is not a complete cycle.
The Phosphorous Cycle
1: Phosphorous is freed from the Earth’s crust by weathering and enters the soil or water2: Plants or aquatic producers absorb the phosphorous to make energy.Large animals obtain phosphorous by eating the plants and through drinking water3: The phosphorous returns to the soil and water when animals and plants die, or through human and animal waste4: Organisms that use the soil or water absorb the phosphorous
When you are done, you should be able to:
- Explain the importance of phosphorous for life on Earth
- Describe the phosphorous cycle
- Recall why the phosphorous cycle is not a complete cycle