Earth's Life Support Systems and Nitrogen Crisis

Nitrogen plays important role in the biological and physical processes. By volume, the earth's atmosphere contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. In this article, we have explained how nitrogen is important for the Earth’s life-support systems.
Apr 30, 2019 13:15 IST
Earth's Life Support Systems and Nitrogen Crisis

The 21st century world is moving around technological excellence and environmental issues like global warming, climate change, heat budget, population, pollution (Air, light, plastic, thermal, visual, water) new diseases, soil contamination, radioactive contamination etc. But nitrogen pollution is on the least priority. Let’s see - What will happen to the Earth's Life Support Systems when Nitrogen disappears from the Earth?

Composition of Earth's Atmosphere

There are three major constituents of Earth's atmosphere are nitrogen, oxygen, and argon. By volume, the earth's atmosphere contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases.

To understand the highest percentage of nitrogen in the atmosphere, it is important to compare it to the percentage of oxygen which has the second highest percentage. Nitrogen is very stable in the atmosphere and is not involved to a great extent in chemical reactions that occur there.

Thus, over geological time, it has built up in the atmosphere to a much greater extent than oxygen. It is important to know that both nitrogen and oxygen are closely involved with the cycle of life on the planet, but that chemicals cycle through this material on a short time scale relative to the geological processes that have, over time, made the earth what it is today (compositionally and physically).

Nitrogen and Oxygen are found in the living biosphere and fossil organic matter (and both are soluble in sea water too). But, only a small fraction (less than 1% for Nitrogen and much, much less than 1% for Oxygen) of the total for these element on the planet are to be found in these places.

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Role of Nitrogen

Nitrogen plays important role in the biological and physical processes. The precise roles are discussed below:

1. It dilutes the oxygen to a concentration, which is in the “Goldilocks” zone for life to develop. It will make plants green and healthy.

2. It is important for fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification.

3. Nitrogen compounds such as nitrates are essential plant foods. Some bacteria, such as Rhizobium have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen to make nitrates.

Earth’s life-support systems and Nitrogen

The Earth has nine major life-support systems from ocean to ozone. Nitrogen is one of the components of the Earth's life support systems. It is just because every living organism on the Earth requires nitrogen. For Example- It is important for the formation of complex molecule such as chlorophyll, proteins and DNA. It is also important for the production growth enzymes growth, reproduction and other biological functions.

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Effect of Nitrogen Crisis on the Earth’s Life Support System

The atoms of the Nitrogen has strong ability to form stable compounds with different elements such as ammonia, ammonium, nitric oxide, nitrite, nitrate, nitric acid, nitrous oxide and a multitude of organic molecules. Therefore, we can say that biogeochemical cycles cannot be completed without nitrogen.

If the concentration of the nitrogen altered then the biological nitrogen fixation rate will be altered. It is a key constituent of all living cells. Proteins are the basic physico-chemical structures of all living things, and are made from amino acids. If nitrogen is absence, there will be no protein and as a result no living organism will survive without growth.

Hence, we can say that the productivity of the living organism on the Earth depends on the availability of Nitrogen.

Recently, researcher states that there are disruption on the balance between fixation and denitrification, by adding unprecedented amounts of reactive nitrogen to the biosphere due to following reason:

1. Industrial production of ammonia for fertilizers and explosives, using the Haber-Bosch process;

2. Large-scale cultivation of rice, soy beans and other crops that promote production of reactive nitrogen;

3. Burning fossil fuel, which, in addition to carbon dioxide, produces the gases nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide.

These activities, adding the reactive nitrogen to the biomass on Earth.

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