1. conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, performed by bacteria in the roots of legumes or lightning. N2 --> NH3
2. conversion of ammonia to nitrite to nitrate performed by bacteria. NH3 --> NO2 --> NO3-
3. inorganic nitrogen is uptaken by the roots of plants and becomes part of the food chain. NO3- --> organic nitrogen (proteins and nucleic acids)
4. conversion of organic nitrogen into ammonia. Performed by decomposers (bacteria, fungus) to return nitrogen to the soil. Organic nitrogen --> NH3
5. nitrates are returned to the atmosphere by anaerobic bacteria. NO3- --> N2
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