Cycles are important to understanding ecosystems. Identify 3 cycles and provide local examples of them.
- The Water Cycle: Water molecules are essential to all organisms, and travel around the globe in liquid and gas form. In liquid form, it travels as part of oceans, lakes, rivers and ground water. As a gas, water vapor travels through the atmosphere in the form of clouds. Here in Charlotte, streams are maintained to allow water to flow efficiently. As it falls as precipitation, the moisture makes its way through direct runoff or ground water to these channels, which eventually empty into other bodies of water such as Lake Norman and Lake Wylie.
- The Nitrogen Cycle: Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth, but only when it is the form of ammonium or nitrate ions. Bacteria fix N₂ molecules into usable forms for vegetation, but human involvement has upset this balance in some areas. Locally, nitrogen rich fertilizers have found their way into streams through water runoff. Although this promotes the growth and productivity of algae in the stream, microorganisms may create “dead areas” by taking up all the resources in an area, especially oxygen, sunlight and space. This causes other organism to die out.
- The Carbon Cycle: Carbon moves throughout every ecosystem in the world in the form of carbon dioxide. In photosynthesis, producers consume CO₂, and it is released into the atmosphere through cellular respiration. Recently, the burning of fossil fuels has become an essential part in this process as well, as they release several metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as well. More CO₂ in the atmosphere is causing a greenhouse effect to occur, changing the global climate. North Carolina is experiencing the effects of this process with unpredictable weather patterns and warmer temperatures.