Building Development Effects on Environmental Cycles: Part 2
This week we will be continuing our look at environmental cycles and how construction and building development impacts on those cycles. First up:
The Oxygen cycle
Photosynthesis is the process which uses the suns energy to convert carbon dioxide and water in plants into oxygen. Photosynthesis and the resultant oxygen production is vital for life on Earth. As well as maintaining the normal level of oxygen in the atmosphere, all life depends on it. Oxygen is released into the atmosphere by arthropods (for example plants on land, algae in the water).
Humans and animals produce carbon dioxide which is then consumed by plants who intern return oxygen into the atmosphere as a waste product and the cycle continues.
Other factors affecting the oxygen cycle (not all) are the death of plants and animals and the amount of plants available to produce oxygen. The death of plants and animals produces decay (carbon dioxide) and fossil fuels which are intern mined by humans and used to produce more carbon dioxide (for example the burning of coal to produce electricity). The removal of trees for development not only produces carbon dioxide via decay and fossil fuel but also has the additional negative effect of reducing the production of oxygen through photosynthesis.
The ocean (and the potential of land fill) is also a major dissolver of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide falls out of solution and turns to rock (limestone) in the ocean. Plants in the ocean (arthropods) return oxygen back into the atmosphere
The Carbon cycle
Looking back at the oxygen cycle, carbon dioxide plays a major (and opposite) part. Carbon in biological systems comes from plants (animals eat plants and so the food chain continues). Carbon is released into the atmosphere during development via waste (pollutants) or is used as a fuel for the production of energy.
By producing additional energy to service development we release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and, as discussed earlier reduce the potential for oxygen production. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the warmer the earth becomes (global warming) the more energy efficiency methods are required to be placed into existing and new development in order to create comfortable environments for the buildings occupants (insulation, efficient glazing types and positioning, energy efficient air-conditioning and hot water system etc).
The Phosphorus cycle
Phosphate is a very heavy molecule that is always contained in water or rock and does not enter the atmosphere. When a rock with phosphate enters water, especially water with acid, the phosphate transfers into the water.
Arthropods (plants on land, algae in the water) take up the dissolved phosphorous for the production of cells and animals obtain phosphorus from plants and use it in the production of bones and teeth or shells. When animals and plants die the phosphorus is returned to the soil and water, and the cycle continues.
The mining of phosphate creates a concentration of phosphate in coastal regions and rivers due to the over use of fertiliser, which in turn affects other eco-cycles, for example an algal bloom in a river starves the river of oxygen.
Next week we will be wrapping up this series with a look at a couple more environmental cycles.
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