Integrated assessment of the grand nutrient cycles
|Title||Integrated assessment of the grand nutrient cycles|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||1997|
|Journal||Environmental Modeling and Assessment|
There are four major elements that are required by the biosphere in significantly greater quantities than they are available in nature. These four are carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and phosphorus (P). (Hydrogen and oxygen, the other two major ingredients of organic materials, are not scarce in the earth's crust, though oxygen is also recycled along with carbon.) These natural cycles are driven by geological, hydrological, atmospheric and biological processes. In effect, the geo‐biosphere is a dissipative system (in the sense of Prigogine) in a quasi steady state, far from thermodynamic equilibrium. This steady state is maintained by the influx of solar exergy. Interruption or disturbance of these natural cycles as a consequence of human industrial/economic activity could adversely affect the stability of the biosphere, and might possibly reduce its productivity. Indeed, because the more complex long‐lived organisms such as large mammals (including man), birds and even trees evolve more slowly than smaller short‐lived organisms, the very nature of an altered steady state might not be favorable to many existing species. Thus there is even a potential threat to human survival itself. Unfortunately, the interactions among these cycles have received relatively little attention up to now.