Phosphorus Cycle

Phosphorus is an element that is an essential material needed by animals to form bones, teeth, and parts of molecules, such as DNA and RNA. Plants get the phosphorus they need from soil and water, whereas animals get their phosphorus by eating plants or other animals. The phosphorus cycle is the movement of phosphorus from the environment to organisms and then back to the environment. This cycle is slow and does not normally occur in the atmosphere, because phosphorus rarely occurs as a gas.

When rocks erode, small amounts of phosphorus dissolve as phosphate, PO43 , in soil and water. Plants absorb phosphorus in the soil through their roots. Phosphorus is also added to soil and water when excess phosphorus is excreted in wastes from organisms and when organisms die and decompose. Some phosphorus applied to fields as fertilizer washes off the land into streams and groundwater.

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