Oxygen cycle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Atmospheric oxygen is essential to the development of life found on Earth. Oxygen is the most abundant element by mass in Earth’s crust, the most abundant by mass in the oceans, and the second most abundant in Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, understanding the biogeochemistry of oxygen, its reservoirs, and the fluxes between these reservoirs is essential. Molecular oxygen is maintained at a nearly constant amount in the atmosphere because of the balance between its emission via photosynthesis and its removal through consumption via respiration by humans, animals, and plants. A small, observed decrease in atmospheric oxygen over recent decades appears to be tied to changes in the atmospheric carbon dioxide and its feedbacks on the biosphere. The other important atmospheric gas in the oxygen cycle is ozone (O3). Roughly 90% of atmospheric ozone is in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere from about 10 to 50 km above Earth’s surface. Ozone in the stratosphere is often called ‘good’ ozone because this layer protects life on Earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun. Human activities, particularly the production, use, and emissions of a variety of chlorine- and bromine-containing halocarbons have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of stratospheric ozone over the last several decades, with a concomitant increase in UV. Increases in lower atmospheric ‘bad’ ozone are also of concern because of its direct effects on humans, crops, and ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Ecology
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780444641304
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Biogeochemical cycling
  • Carbon cycle
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Human effects
  • Oxygen
  • Ozone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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