Understanding Minerals

  • Minerals are naturally occurring inorganic substances, crucial for various biological processes in organisms.
  • They are not produced within organisms, and hence must be obtained through the diet.
  • They are required in varying amounts by different organisms, based on their metabolic needs.

Roles of Minerals

  • Minerals play a part in the formation of bones, teeth, and blood cells, and help maintain normal heartbeat and muscle contractions in animals.
  • For plants, minerals like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are essential for growth and the formation of structures like leaves and flowers.
  • Minerals also act as cofactors for enzymes, facilitating biochemical reactions in both animals and plants.

Source of Minerals

  • Plants generally obtain minerals from the soil through their root systems. These minerals are absorbed from the soil in the form of inorganic ions.
  • Animals acquire necessary minerals by consuming plants or other animals.
  • The cycling of minerals in an ecosystem is an important aspect of nutrient cycles, where decomposers play a major role in returning minerals to the soil.

Impact of Deficiency or Excess

  • Deficiency of certain minerals in an organism’s diet can lead to health problems. For example, iron deficiency can cause anaemia in humans.
  • Excess consumption of certain minerals is toxic to organisms. For instance, overconsumption of sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
  • In plants, deficiency of specific minerals manifests as specific symptoms such as yellowing of leaves (chlorosis) due to nitrogen deficiency.

Human Impact

  • Humans significantly impact the availability of minerals in an ecosystem through activities like farming and pollution.
  • Over-farming can deplete the soil of minerals, making it less fertile.
  • Pollution can introduce harmful minerals into the ecosystem, affecting both plant and animal life.