The nitrogen cycle is an indispensable part of DNA, it is a crucial component of our ecosystem and biological life. The atmosphere that sustains life on the planet comprises 78% nitrogen. This element is extremely important for all biological processes. It is an integral part of amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids like DNA and RNA. The plant kingdom is dependent on atmospheric nitrogen used by the chlorophyll molecules during photosynthesis, a process that sustains life within the kingdom and enhances growth. The nitrogen cycle is a term that refers to a complex, bio-geochemical cycle. This cyclic process is based on its conversion from an atmospheric molecular form, which is basically inert, to a form that enriches biological processes Thus, it comprises triggered transformations of atmospheric nitrogen and nitrogen-containing compounds. Some interesting facts about nitrogen cycle are enlisted in the paragraphs below.
The nitrogen cycle, when sagaciously researched, reveals the coordination and interdependency between the various biotic and abiotic elements in nature. The fixation or processing of this element in atmosphere is vital to its conversion into forms that can be used by living organisms. Most of these processes are triggered by the action of symbiotic bacteria. These microscopic life-forms comprise a nitrogenase enzyme that converts to ammonia when combined with hydrogen. The resultant organic compounds convert these symbiotic bacteria types into those that thrive in root nodules of legumes. The cyclic motion continues as the interdependency results in the exchange of ammonia for carbohydrates. In this way, atmospheric nitrogen is released into the soil. This is once again absorbed in the form of nitrate or ammonium ions by the next crop cultivated. The presence of nitrogen in the food-chain is the result of herbivorous animals who survive on these plants and associated products.
- This cycle is an important part of the terrestrial ecosystem. This element is found freely in the atmosphere, living and organic matter, and the oceans.
- Although it is found in abundance, it can only be absorbed by plants as the ammonium ion or the nitrate ion. Its toxicity is the reason behind a limited consumption by plants.
- Other life forms, like animals and man, receive the required amount of nitrogen vital for metabolism and reproduction via the consumption of organic matter.
- The conversion of the atmospheric form, into a form that life forms can use is an important spoke in the cycle.
- Nitrogen, as an essential nutrient, can be derived in four ways. In biological fixation, the symbiotic bacteria fix it to become organic. In industrial N-fixation, atmospheric form and hydrogen are combined to form ammonia, with the help of a catalyst. During the combustion of fossil fuels, it's oxides are released as exhaust. Another process that aids in the conversion is lightning.
- The extensive cultivation of legumes, the Haber-Bosch chemical fertilizer processing, and vehicle exhaust have forced humans to look into synthetic means to transfer nitrogen trace gases from the atmosphere, to enrich the land.
- The increase in nitrous oxide in the atmosphere due to forced agricultural fertilization and biomass burning has resulted in the destruction of atmospheric ozone, acid rain, smog, and drastic alteration of the atmospheric chemistry.
- Nitrogen present in the atmosphere and plants is highly soluble. This enables it to enter groundwater. However, this is not a growth-enhancing development, rather a global concern. The dissolved nitrate interferes with blood-oxygen levels and causes methemoglobinemia. Nitrate-concentrated groundwater also results in eutrophication or a high algal population, which results in the premature death of aquatic life-forms.
Thus, this element is highly useful for the environment. I hope you have enriched your knowledge of this element through this article.