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Recycling of elements occurs as organisms incorporate them to produce biomass, oxidize reduced forms as energy sources, and reduce oxidized forms as terminal electron acceptors. Carbon fixation utilizes atmospheric CO2 to produce organic material; the CO2 is regenerated during respiration and some fermentations. Prokaryotes are essential for several steps of the nitrogen cycle including nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification, and anammox. Prokaryotes are also essential for several steps of the sulfur cycle, including sulfur reduction and sulfate oxidation.

■ Why do farmers try to impede nitrification?

■ Although chemoautotrophs serve as the primary producers near hydrothermal vents, animals that live in that environment still ultimately depend on the photosynthetic activities of plants and cyanobacteria. Why?

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