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The sulfur cycle

Sulfur is an essential element for the macromolecules of living things. As part of the amino acid cysteine, it is involved in the formation of proteins. As shown in [link] , sulfur cycles between the oceans, land, and atmosphere. Atmospheric sulfur is found in the form of sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ), which enters the atmosphere in three ways: first, from the decomposition of organic molecules; second, from volcanic activity and geothermal vents; and, third, from the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

The illustration shows the sulfur cycle. Sulfur enters the atmosphere as sulfur dioxide (SO2) via human emissions, decomposition of H2S, and volcanic eruptions. Precipitation and fallout from the atmosphere return sulfur to the earth, where it enters terrestrial ecosystems. Sulfur enters the oceans via runoff, where it becomes incorporated in marine ecosystems. Some marine sulfur becomes pyrite, which is trapped in sediment. If uplifting occurs, the pyrite enters the soil and is converted to soil sulfates.
Sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere becomes available to terrestrial and marine ecosystems when it is dissolved in precipitation as weak sulfuric acid or when it falls directly to Earth as fallout. Weathering of rocks also makes sulfates available to terrestrial ecosystems. Decomposition of living organisms returns sulfates to the ocean, soil, and atmosphere. (credit: modification of work by John M. Evans and Howard Perlman, USGS)

On land, sulfur is deposited in four major ways: precipitation, direct fallout from the atmosphere, rock weathering, and geothermal vents ( [link] ). Atmospheric sulfur is found in the form of sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ), and as rain falls through the atmosphere, sulfur is dissolved in the form of weak sulfuric acid (H 2 SO 4 ). Sulfur can also fall directly from the atmosphere in a process called fallout    . Also, as sulfur-containing rocks weather, sulfur is released into the soil. These rocks originate from ocean sediments that are moved to land by the geologic uplifting of ocean sediments. Terrestrial ecosystems can then make use of these soil sulfates (SO 4 2- ), which enter the food web by being taken up by plant roots. When these plants decompose and die, sulfur is released back into the atmosphere as hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S) gas.

The photo shows a white, pyramid-shaped mound with gray steam escaping from it.
At this sulfur vent in Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California, the yellowish sulfur deposits are visible near the mouth of the vent. (credit: “Calbear22”/Wikimedia Commons)

Sulfur enters the ocean in runoff from land, from atmospheric fallout, and from underwater geothermal vents. Some ecosystems rely on chemoautotrophs using sulfur as a biological energy source. This sulfur then supports marine ecosystems in the form of sulfates.

Human activities have played a major role in altering the balance of the global sulfur cycle. The burning of large quantities of fossil fuels, especially from coal, releases larger amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas into the atmosphere. As rain falls through this gas, it creates the phenomenon known as acid rain, which damages the natural environment by lowering the pH of lakes, thus killing many of the resident plants and animals. Acid rain is corrosive rain caused by rainwater falling to the ground through sulfur dioxide gas, turning it into weak sulfuric acid, which causes damage to aquatic ecosystems. Acid rain also affects the man-made environment through the chemical degradation of buildings. For example, many marble monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, have suffered significant damage from acid rain over the years. These examples show the wide-ranging effects of human activities on our environment and the challenges that remain for our future.

Section summary

Mineral nutrients are cycled through ecosystems and their environment. Of particular importance are water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. All of these cycles have major impacts on ecosystem structure and function. As human activities have caused major disturbances to these cycles, their study and modeling is especially important. Ecosystems have been damaged by a variety of human activities that alter the natural biogeochemical cycles due to pollution, oil spills, and events causing global climate change. The health of the biosphere depends on understanding these cycles and how to protect the environment from irreversible damage.

Art connections

[link] Which of the following statements about the nitrogen cycle is false?

  1. Ammonification converts organic nitrogenous matter from living organisms into ammonium (NH 4 + ).
  2. Denitrification by bacteria converts nitrates (NO 3 - ) to nitrogen gas (N 2 ).
  3. Nitrification by bacteria converts nitrates (NO 3 - ) to nitrites (NO 2 - ).
  4. Nitrogen fixing bacteria convert nitrogen gas (N 2 ) into organic compounds.

[link] C: Nitrification by bacteria converts nitrates (NO 3 - ) to nitrites (NO 3 - ).

Questions & Answers

how environment affect demand and supply of commodity ?
Amos Reply
Wht at the criteria for market ?
what is difference between monitory policy and fiscal policy?
Malik Reply
monetary policy is a policy thrust by National Govt(CBN) to influence government spending, purchase &taxes
necessity of economics
Pamela Reply
I will say want,choice,opportunity cost,scarcity,scale of preference
what is monopoly market.How price output are determined under monopoly market
b) Monopoly market is an impecfect market where s single firm having the innovation to produce a particular commodity.Prices are determined through output since there are no other competitive.
Monopoly market:firm has market power & does not respond to market price
Explain the process of price determination under perfect competition market with suitable diagram
bisham Reply
Price determination under perfect competition via this process :firms have no market power to influence price rather firms respond to market price.
price is different from demand- demand is amount of commodity
Effah Reply
demand is amount /quantity of commodity a potential buyer is willing to buy at a given price at market
demand is a desire of customer on commodity with the ability to pay it and willing to buy it at given price of commodity
demand is price of what
Faith Reply
show that shortrun average cost
Baby Reply
what is economics
Mbah Reply
what is money
what is money
Difine macro economics
money is a medium of exchange between goods and services,maybe inform of currency.
Economics is study of how human beings strive to satisfy numerous wants using limited available resources.
how do you find the maximum number of workers the firms should employ order to produce where there are increasing returns
what are implications of computing national income?.
what is the formulae for calculating national income
it calculated by value added method
classify the production units like agriculture, banking, transport etc
money is anything that is generally acceptetable for human
Estimate the net value added(NVA) at fixed cost by each industrial structure
definition of unemployment
Adam Reply
what are the causes of unemployment?
Mbubi Reply
The main causes of unemployment are listed below. 1. Frictional unemployment 2. Cyclical unemployment 3. Structural unemployment
We can also categorize the causes on a broader sense as: 1. Political and 2. Social cause As unemployeement root causes are embaded in this two.
would opportunity cost exist if there was no scarcity?
yes just because the opportunity cost arose when there is Alternative to choose among the alternatives.
I am thinking that, if our resources were unlimited, then there wouldn't be any need to forgo some wants. Hence the inexistence if opportunity cost
politics has done what?
consider time assani
I'm Emmanuel,...I taught the main cause is the change in gov't.
...Lack of capital to set up a firm respectively
I would like to bring in Educational levels can also be the cause the cause of the problem respectively
lack of skills among the new generation is the serious issue.
Where I come from , I don't see why education or personal aspects seem to do with unimployment, technically the motivation and eigerness in all works of live is there , dispite the cultural influence and physical bearriors;the thing we lacking is Government Support and open market ethics.
sorry about that-(repation). We have a over powering ethical political system that's displacing the marketing asspects of economy and causing large scale unemployment right across the board...
can someone Explain Expansionary Monetary Policy and Contractionary Monetary Policy Using one of the instrument of Monetary Policy? Please am kinda lost here?. ta
Emmanuel Reply
using a graph show the case of substitute and compliment goods
Ade Reply
can anyone give me a simple explanation to Five Sector Macroeconomics?
Can someone please define what economics is
jason Reply
economics simply is a social science subject that study human behavior.
economics is a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means that has alternative uses
Can someone please tell me how to calculate GDP
emmanual kapal to calculate GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has three method in calculating it (1)income approach (2) expenditure approach (3) value added method
thanks Alae
u are welcome
in basic terms economics is revered to as battery system, it date back to when Men sees the need to exchange sapless goods and produce to gain , either wealth , basic necessities or to establish trading ties for personal benefit or social asspects in terms of coexistence and continuity, future .
what is the law of demand
Berlinda Reply
keep other thing constant, when the price increases demand decrease when the price decreases demand increases of the commodity.
all things being equal,quantity demanded decrease as price increase and increase as price decrease
there's practial joke to it ..." the higher the demand ; scarcity, increase in production and drop in quality"... quite the controversy - for example China vs Europe, United States and we are all boxed up in between somewhere...
Other thing remain constant the low price of commodity the high quantity of commodity and vice versa is true
Explain Effective demand
Anita Reply
What is effective demand
like Modi is in demand...best example of effective demand
Don't get you
Anita you mean you don't get me or who?
level of demand that represents a real intention to purchase by people with the means to pay
in a comparison of the stages of meiosis to the stage of mitosis, which stages are unique to meiosis and which stages have the same event in botg meiosis and mitosis
Leah Reply
Which of the following statements is true of epistasis
Houdini Reply
Why do phospolipids tend to spontaneously orient themselves into something resembling a membrane
catli Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology for slcc biol 1010. OpenStax CNX. Aug 13, 2013 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11555/1.1
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