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flows out of our system


stays in the system, doesn't disappear (recycled)

Biogeochemical cycle

elements pass from one organism to another and among parts of the biosphere through closed loops

3 fossil fuels

1. oil
2. coal
3. natural gas


are chemicals that organisms need to survive
ex. water, oxygen

Biological process

all activities performed by living organisms

Geological process

includes volcanic eruptions, the formation and breakdown of rock, and major movements of matter within and below the surface of the earth

Chemical and Physical process

includes the formation of clouds and precipitation, the flow of running water, and the action of lightning

Human activity

includes the mining and burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of land for building and farming, the burning of forests, and the manufacture and use of fertilizers

Nitrogen fixation

bacteria converts nitrogen gas into ammonia


other soil bacteria obtains energy by converting nitrates into nitrogen gas, which is released into the atmosphere

Limiting nutrients

the nutrients whose supply limits productivity

How does matter move through the biosphere?

unlike the one way flow of energy, matter is recycled within and between ecosystems

How does water recycle through the biosphere?

water continuously moves between the oceans, the atmosphere, and land, sometimes outside living organisms and sometimes inside them

What is the importance of the main nutrient cycles?

every organism needs nutrients to build tissues and carry out life functions. Like water, nutrients pass through organisms and the environment through biogeochemical cycles. The three ways, or cycles that move carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus through the biosphere are especially critical for life.

How does nutrients availability relate to the primary productivity of an ecosystem?

If ample sunlight and water are available, the primary productivity of an ecosystem may be limited by the availability of nutrients.

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