Nitrogen cycle Essay Example

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The Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle

The nitrogen cycle is the process that involves the conversion of nitrogen into its various chemical forms. This process can be performed either through biological of physical means. The nitrogen cycle encompasses different significant processes which include: nitrogen fixation, nitrification, ammonification as well as denitrification (Boyer and Howarth, 2002). Therefore, nitrogen cycle as a process is a very significant concept to ecologists since the element of nitrogen availability has a very enormous impact on the rate of fundamental ecosystem processes which include decomposition and primary production. Various human activities inclusive of combustion of fuel, nitrogen wastewater dumping to the environment and production of artificial nitrogen fertilizers have serious consequences to the global nitrogen cycle (Bouwman, Bouman and Batjes, 2002). This essay will highlight the process of nitrogen cycle and describe the present and possible future situations in relation to the security of the cycle.

The nitrogen in the atmosphere takes about 78% of the total Earth’s atmosphere taking the largest pool and is considered very necessary in all forms of life on this planet earth. In the nitrogen cycle process, nitrogen as an element is present in various chemical forms which include ammonia, nitrate, nitrous oxide and nitrite to mention a few (Boyer and Howarth, 2002). It can also be in a living organism state such as humus. Nevertheless, nitrogen in the atmosphere has very little availability when it comes to biological usage. This has resulted in the shortage of usable nitrogen in various categories of ecosystems (Cassman, Dobermann and Walters, 2002). This process of nitrogen cycle converts the element of nitrogen to other compound forms. This biological process is motivated by microbes which harvest energy by accumulating nitrogen in order to sustain their growth. The processes involved in the nitrogen cycle includes nitrogen fixation, assimilation, ammonification, nitrification, denitrificaion to name a few.

Over the past years, our understanding of nitrogen creation and its existent in different ecosystems have raised dramatically. From past sources, we have knowledge that nitrogen creation accrues in quite a number of ecosystems such as lightning (Cassman, Dobermann and Walters, 2002). Therefore, many ecosystems rely on nitrogen availability though this limitation is part of the natural process. Due to the increase in the human population, the demand for nitrogen is increasing in a huge rate since it is used to grow food. This demand of nitrogen has led to a very substantial alteration of the element in the nitrogen cycle either in air, land or water. In addition, there are two activities that led to the increase in the amount of nitrogen to the environment. They comprise of food production and energy production which have greatly influenced the production and release of nitrogen in the atmosphere (Boyer and Howarth, 2002). For example, the combustion of fossil fuels releases a considerable amount of nitrogen into the atmosphere as a waste product. Currently, the rate of food and energy production has significantly increased due to the growth in human population. This has in turn increased the rate of per-capita resource usage. The consequences that have come with such usage have affected the nitrogen present in the environment since humans tend to utilize similar amount of nitrogen as natural processes (Bouwman, Bouman and Batjes, 2002).

Moreover, activities such as human induced nitrogen fixation on land has effectually raised the transfer of nitrogen from the atmosphere and into biologically available forms (Bouwman, Bouman and Batjes, 2002). For example, production of fertilizers. Furthermore, human activities have also hastened the rate of nitrogen release from its storage in soils and biological matter. This processes have greatly affected the nitrogen cycle in the atmosphere threatening the earth’s atmosphere to catastrophes such as greenhouse effect which is caused by the imbalance in the nitrogen cycle (Dentener and Raes, 2002). Also, due to the current industrialization, various compound gases have been released to the atmosphere such as nitrous oxide and ammonia to mention a few. The release of such gases in the atmosphere has resulted to environmental effects which alter with the nitrogen cycle in the atmosphere depriving our environment.

In conclusion, nitrogen cycle is a very important process since it is very necessary in all forms of life on this planet earth. On the other hand, human activities over the past century have greatly affected the nitrogen fixation rate into the nitrogen cycle. This pace is also probable to increase in the future. This has resulted to an increased environmental issues. For instance, concentration of nitrous oxide gases in the atmosphere alters the process of nitrogen cycle leading to greenhouse effect which is a serious consequence to the environment. In addition, human activities such as fuel combustion and release of wastewater into the environment should be addressed in order to restore the process of the nitrogen cycle in the environment which will slow the pace of global change as well as moderate its effects.


Bouwman A., Bouman M. and Batjes H. (2002). Estimation of global NH3 volatilization loss from synthetic fertilizers and animal manure applied to arable lands and grasslands. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 16(2): Art. No. 1024.

Boyer E. and Howarth R. (2002). The Nitrogen Cycles at Regional to Global Scales. Kluwer, New York.

Cassman K., Dobermann D. and Walters D. (2002). Agroecosystems, nitrogen management and economics. Ambio, 31, 132–140.

Dentener F. and Raes F. (2002). Greenhouse gases and atmospheric chemistry: towards integration of air pollution and climate change olicies. Third International Symposium on Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases (NCGG-3). Maastricht, the Netherlands.