Silicon (Si), in the form of dissolved silicate (DSi), is a key nutrient in marine and continental ecosystems. DSi is taken up by organisms to produce structural elements (e.g., shells and phytoliths) composed of amorphous biogenic silica (bSiO(2)). A global mass balance model of the biologically active part of the modern Si cycle is derived on the basis of a systematic review of existing data regarding terrestrial and oceanic production fluxes, reservoir sizes, and residence times for DSi and bSiO(2). The model demonstrates the high sensitivity of biogeochemical Si cycling in the coastal zone to anthropogenic pressures, such as river damming and global temperature rise. As a result, further significant changes in the production and recycling of bSiO(2) in the coastal zone are to be expected over the course of this century.