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Why doesn’t marine life die from ammonia poisoning from dead organisms?
Question Date: 2018-03-08
Answer 1:

Great question. As you probably know, ammonia is a chemical that contains nitrogen. When protein breaks down, one of the products is ammonia. So with all of those things dying (and giving off wastes) in the ocean all the time, where does the ammonia go? The short answer is that producers (species that do photosynthesis) pull it right back out of the water and use the nitrogen to build their own tissues. Without nitrogen for making proteins, DNA, and other important molecules, producers can’t grow and reproduce.

On land, farmers have known for a long time that crops grow better if you add manure, dead fish, or other wastes/dead stuff to the soil. The idea is the same in water.

On land, the familiar producers are plants, like trees and corn. In the ocean, the producers are algae and a group called archaea (pronounced “AR-key-uh”). Archaea used to be grouped with bacteria, but it turns out that we’re more similar to mushrooms than archaea are to bacteria. When things die and break down in the ocean, ammonium (similar to ammonia) is given off. Ammonium is even easier for producers to absorb. The archaea not only use ammonia for nitrogen, they get energy from breaking it down, like we get energy from breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

One group of algae live in coral. Coral are animals, so they eat. They also give off wastes that are like our urine and contain nitrogen. The algae absorb nitrogen from this waste.Our beautiful coral reefs are partly the result of this mutualism between an algae and an animal.

There is a global nitrogen cycle that involves the atmosphere, the air, and the water. All are connected. Archaea turn out to be very important in this cycle. As we learn more about microbes (species you can only see with a microscope), we’re sure to learn a lot more about the world as a whole.

About 80% of the air around us is nitrogen, so why do plants need nitrogen in fertilizer? If you want to look this up, compare ammonia to atmospheric nitrogen.

Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

Ammonia poisoning can kill marine life, but ammonia is also transformed into nitrate by bacteria, which is less toxic. This nitrate can then be used by other life-forms, such as making amino acids.

Answer 3:

Ammonia is a gas, so it leaves the ocean and goes into the air. There aren't enough dead organisms to kill the marine life.

Why doesn’t marine life die from ammonia poisoning from dead organisms?

References from the Internet address answers about fish in aquariums! So it sounds like they can be killed by ammonia poisoning, because they're in such a small place.

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