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The sulfur cycle

Sulfur is an essential element for the macromolecules of living things. As a part of the amino acid cysteine, it is involved in the formation of disulfide bonds within proteins, which help to determine their 3-D folding patterns, and hence their functions. As shown in [link] , sulfur cycles between the oceans, land, and atmosphere. Atmospheric sulfur is found in the form of sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ) and enters the atmosphere in three ways: from the decomposition of organic molecules, from volcanic activity and geothermal vents, and from the burning of fossil fuels by humans.

This 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 upwelling 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 the 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, the weathering of sulfur-containing rocks releases sulfur 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 ), and upon the death and decomposition of these organisms, release the sulfur back into the atmosphere as hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S) gas.

 This 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.

Sulfur enters the ocean via runoff from land, from atmospheric fallout, and from underwater geothermal vents. Some ecosystems ( [link] ) 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. 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 damages the natural environment by lowering the pH of lakes, which kills many of the resident fauna; it 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.

Click this link to learn more about global climate change.

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. A variety of human activities, such as pollution, oil spills, and events) have damaged ecosystems, potentially causing global climate change. The health of Earth 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 2 ).

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Questions & Answers

what is reproduction
mana Reply
reproduction is the process by which living organisms give rise to young ones of their own kind
Miriam
What is evolution
Wengelawit
the production of new forms of life over time as documented in the fossil record.
mana
hmm
Marvin
give two parasites where secondary host is water snail?
Kevin Reply
what is treats
Raih Reply
what are the organelles in cell that involves in protein sythenis
Rita Reply
what is a melanin?
Judith Reply
what is telophase
Elphas
melanin in that black color we posse in our skins
Marvin
Why do parasites take on a parasitic life?
Asadullah Reply
what is cell
Ousman Reply
A cell is the basic structure unit of an organ
Yaa
what is respiration
Igwe
what is organisms?
Bashir
Organisms are living things that can function on their own
EZEA
A cell is a functional basic unit of an organisms.
Evelyn
Organisms is a entity which consists of one or more cells and are able to undergo all life processes
Evelyn
A respiration is the physical and chemical break down of complex food substance into absorbable or simple form.
Evelyn
What will to a cell if the nucleus is removed..?
Goodrick Reply
When a cell nucleus removed then the cell will not be able to function properly, it will not be able to grow .All the metabolic functioning of the cell will stop .Without nucleus the cell will lose it's control. It can not carry out cellular reproduction .
Evelyn
defin peroxesome
walid
write a short note on how the kidney carry out osmoregulation in man
Rhoda Reply
Kidney play a very large role in human osoregulation by regulating the amount of water reabsorbed from glomerular filtrate in kidney as tubules, which is controlled by hormones such as antrdiuvetic hormone (ADH) , aldosterone and angiotensin.
Evelyn
kidney is capable of osmoregulation in mammal ,
Judith
simple definition for respiratory system
Gift Reply
Respiratory system is a network of organs and tissues that helps you to breathe or help in getting the rids of oxygen and discharge of carbon dioxide in the body.
Ruhiyatu
What are uses of respiratory system
Joster
how it functions
Ousman
what is inresparetion
Fikkabex
Why do parasites take on a parasitic life?
Asadullah
A respiratory system is a biological system consisting of specific organs and structures used for gas exchange in animals and plant
Evelyn
diseases of respiration
walid
when air enters to the body called inresparetion
walid
explain why plants responds to stimuli slowly than animals
Bekoe
how is a aerenchyma tissue adapted to its function
fatuma Reply
Have large air spaces that store air for gaseous exchange... Large air spaces also facilitate bouyancy.
Goodrick
what does DNA mean
innocent Reply
dioxiribo nucleic acid
Lekan
Deoxyribonucleic acid
Goodrick
dioxide nucleic acid
Shadrack
what does RNA mean
Shadrack
Ribonucleic acid
Goodrick
what is DNA and RNA
Miriam
defin work of DNA
walid
what is a zygote
Victor Reply
zygote is developed or fertilized egg cell
Lekan
what is the difference between cell wall and cell membrane
Ruhiyatu Reply
cell wall is found in plant while cell membrane is found in animal cell
Lekan
please this is the main answer to that question okay Cell wall gives shape and support to the cell whiles Cell membrane support the movement of substances into and out of the cell. This question is very tricky that's why I asked.
Ruhiyatu
cell wall makes the cell turgid,in times of flaccidity while cell membrane is a semi permeable tissue
Judith
how cell I form
Elijah Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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