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Describing one or more biogeochemical cycles and the effects of human activities upon them. ( carbon cycle ) Essay Example

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Effects of Human Activities on Biogeochemical Cycles

Effects of Human Activities on Biogeochemical Cycles

Biogeochemical cycle is a complete route in which a chemical component takes through the four major systems of the earth. These earth systems include atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere (Bodkin and Keller, 2004). Since biogeochemical cycle is a chemical reaction, it is affected by how new chemicals are composed from elements through the process of chemical change. This biogeochemical cycle is regarded as a cycle because substance are conserved and also because elements move to and from key pools through various fluxes (Brian and Stephen, 2000). These elements circulate within the biosphere in a distinguishing path from the environment to the atmosphere and then back to the environment. These cycles can easily be influences by various human activities which are directed towards the earth. This essay will highlight the various types of biogeochemical cycles and the effect of human activities upon them.

There are various types of biogeochemical cycles. They include phosphorus cycles and carbon cycles cycle to mention a few and they vary in their pathways (Michael, 2008). First, phosphorus cycle is prevalently identified in water, soil as well as sediments. Phosphorus cannot be recognized in the air since it exists in liquid form under normal temperatures and pressure. This element moves considerably slow directly from land deposits and to the organisms and again slower when they go back into the soil and water sediments (Michael, 2008). This cycle is considered to be the slowest and is regarded as important since phosphorus is very significant for life yet it is a limiting nutrient for growth of plants. Secondly, carbon cycle entails carbon as an element and is considered the most important because it supports all organic substances and sustains life on this planet. Products of carbon such as methane and carbon dioxide have a substantial effect on the heat balance on earth (Kirrill et al, 2003). Therefore, it can contribute to global warming as well as climate change since it takes in radiation and releases it to the environment.

It is clear that human beings disrupt almost all biogeochemical cycles and thus threatens many ecosystems (Bodkin and Keller, 2004). Over the years, human activities have affected the biogeochemical cycle that is responsible for influencing climatic conditions of the earth. Human impacts on biogeochemical cycle particularly the nitrogen cycle is largely by use of fertilizers for agriculture which has stimulated the rate of photosynthesis and growth. The change in nitrogen cycle has yielded concomitant changes in carbon cycle which results to a sink for carbon dioxide which can otherwise lead to global warming (Bodkin and Keller, 2004). Also, human impacts on phosphorus cycle originate from the use of synthetic fertilizers. The introduction of fertilizer affects the phosphorus and nitrogen cycle. Not all plants can be able to utilize all the phosphate fertilizer applied thus; it is drawn from the land by water run-off. The phosphate fertilizer in the water is precipitated at the bottom of the water basins (Brian and Stephen, 2000). This may be redissolved as a problem nutrient. In addition, humans have influenced the carbon cycle when fossil fuels are mined from the earth.

Fossil fuel has introduced carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is considered one of the greenhouse gases leading to global warming (Vladimir, Krapivin and Costas, 2008). Furthermore, clearing of vegetation which acts as carbon sinks can increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Human influence on sulfur cycle entails the production of sulfur dioxide from burning coal in industries and from the combustion engine. Sulfur dioxide has the ability to precipitate on surfaces and can easily be oxidized to sulphate which is toxic to some plants (Micheal, 2008). The sulfur dioxide can also be reduced to sulphide or oxidized to sulphate in the air as sulfuric acid which is a primary component of acid rain. Humans have led to the transfer of nitrogen gases from the land to the air and from the earth to aquatic system through livestock ranching (Micheal, 2008). Livestock tend to release huge amounts of ammonium from their waste. The nitrogen from ammonium then enters the soil through groundwater flow and water runoff.

In conclusion, biogeochemical cycle is considered a chemical process which involves the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. These cycle involve phosphorus cycle as well as carbon cycle to name a few. These cycles play a major role in various effects that are experienced by the earth. For instance, growth of plants on the earth which is influenced by phosphorus whereas global warming and climate change which are influenced by the carbon cycle. In addition, various human activities significantly contribute to the effects on the biogeochemical cycle such as the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which leads to global warming. Also, human activities such as burning of coal and utilization of combustion engines affects the sulfur cycle. These activities ought to be reduced in order to constantly maintain the biogeochemical cycle on this planet earth.


Bodkin D. & Keller E. (2004). Environmental Science, 5th Edition John Wiley and Sons Publishing

Brian J. and Stephen C. (2000). The Blue Planet; An Introduction to Earth System Science. Human Ecology, United Kingdom

Kirrill Ya., Kondratyev, Vladmir K., Costas V. (2003). Global Carbon and Climate Change. Springer.

Michael E.. (2008). The Physical Environment: An Introduction to Physical Geography. Pearson Prentice Hall

Vladimir F. Krapivin and Costas V. (2008). Biogeochemical Cycles in Globalization and Sustainable Development. Springer Edition, Sustainability Report.