Phosphorus exists almost exclusively in nature as phosphate; however, this is cycled between soluble and insoluble forms. This conversion is pH-dependent, and if phosphate is only present in an insoluble form, it will act as a limiting nutrient. This explains the sudden surge in the growth of plants, algae and cyanobacteria when a source of soluble phosphate (typically fertiliser or detergent) enters a watercourse. Unlike the elements discussed above, phosphorus hardly exists in a gaseous form, so its main 'reservoir' is in the sea rather than the atmosphere.

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