Phosphorus Cycle in Soil

Phosphorus, an essential nutrient, is a key component of molecules necessary for life, including energy (e.g. ATP), lipids, and DNA. Phosphorus exists in both organic and inorganic forms in the environment, initially entering ecosystems through weathering of bedrock and then cycling through soil, water, and organisms. Microbes are integral to the cycling of phosphorus, as they mediate transformations many within the phosphorus cycle, including immobilization, mineralization, and solubilization. Within this interactive Coggle, we present the various transformations of phosphorus between inorganic and organic forms and describe how these are mediated by microbes. Multiple mechanisms can be behind each transformation, and there is an abundance of literature available for you to dive deeper and explore each process!

You might be wondering: why it is so important to learn about the role that microbes play in phosphorus cycling? In addition to being an essential nutrient that all organisms need to live, phosphorus in high concentrations can have negative impacts on biota within freshwater ecosystems, causing harmful algal blooms and eutrophication. With increasing food demand due to a growing human population, the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus has increased in recent times, impacting surrounding ecosystems. Use the scavenger hunt questions below to help guide your exploration of the phosphorus cycle.


Scavenger hunt questions:

  1. What process in the phosphorus cycle is the opposite of mineralization?
  2. What are three factors that can influence phosphate mineralization in soil?
  3. What kind of phosphite oxidation (BPO or APO) would occur in the following environments? (Top later of loosely packed soil? Lake sediments?)
  4. What is the main limitation of phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms?

Collaborators: Presley Coryell, Sophie Weaver, Taylor Seitz, Alex Wynne

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