Berner, Elizabeth K. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Berner, Robert A. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Carbon cycle
- Human perturbation of carbon cycle
- Terrestrial nitrogen cycle
- Oceanic nitrogen cycle
- Phosphorus cycle
- Nutrients in lakes
- Biogeochemical sulfur cycle
- Biogeochemical cycles and atmospheric oxygen
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The study of the cycling of chemicals between organisms and the surface environment of the Earth. The chemicals either can be taken up by organisms and used for growth and synthesis of living matter or can be processed to obtain energy. The chemical composition of plants and animals indicates which elements, known as nutrient elements, are necessary for life. The principal element composition of land plants is shown in the table. The most abundant nutrient elements, carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O), supplied by the environment in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), are usually present in excess. The other nutrient elements, which are also needed for growth, may sometimes be in short supply; in this case they are referred to as limiting nutrients. The two most commonly recognized limiting nutrients are nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).
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