Cyanobacteria: The Great Liberators

Donald Eugene Canfield

in Oxygen

Published by Princeton University Press

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780691145020
Published online October 2017 | e-ISBN: 9781400849888
Cyanobacteria: The Great Liberators

Show Summary Details


This chapter discusses the importance of cyanobacteria. The evolution of cyanobacteria brought the biological production of oxygen to Earth for the first time. This led, in turn, to the eventual accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere and to the widespread evolution of oxygen-utilizing organisms. However, the importance of cyanobacteria goes beyond this. Cyanobacteria were the first photosynthetic organisms on Earth to use water as a source of electrons. Unlike the sulfide, Fe2+, and H2 used by anoxygenic phototrophic organisms, water is almost everywhere on the planet surface. This means that biological production on Earth was no longer limited by the electron source (water in this case), but rather by nutrients and other trace constituents making up the cells. In the end, the use of water in photosynthesis resulted in an increase in rates of primary production on Earth by probably somewhere between a factor of ten to a thousand. For the first time, life on Earth became truly plentiful. With the evolution of cyanobacteria, Earth was on its way to becoming a green planet.

Keywords: cyanobacteria; Earth; water; photosynthesis; anoxygenic phototrophic organisms

Chapter.  4728 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Climate Change

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or purchase to access all content.