The life sulfuric: microbial ecology of sulfur cycling in marine sediments

Kenneth Wasmund, Marc Mußmann, Alexander Loy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Almost the entire seafloor is covered with sediments that can be more than 10 000 m thick and represent a vast microbial ecosystem that is a major component of Earth's element and energy cycles. Notably, a significant proportion of microbial life in marine sediments can exploit energy conserved during transformations of sulfur compounds among different redox states. Sulfur cycling, which is primarily driven by sulfate reduction, is tightly interwoven with other important element cycles (carbon, nitrogen, iron, manganese) and therefore has profound implications for both cellular- and ecosystem-level processes. Sulfur-transforming microorganisms have evolved diverse genetic, metabolic, and in some cases, peculiar phenotypic features to fill an array of ecological niches in marine sediments. Here, we review recent and selected findings on the microbial guilds that are involved in the transformation of different sulfur compounds in marine sediments and emphasise how these are interlinked and have a major influence on ecology and biogeochemistry in the seafloor. Extraordinary discoveries have increased our knowledge on microbial sulfur cycling, mainly in sulfate-rich surface sediments, yet many questions remain regarding how sulfur redox processes may sustain the deep-subsurface biosphere and the impact of organic sulfur compounds on the marine sulfur cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-344
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology Reports
Volume9
Issue number4
Early online date17 Apr 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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