Microbial ecology of expanding oxygen minimum zones

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2012 May 14;10(6):381-94. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2778.


Dissolved oxygen concentration is a crucial organizing principle in marine ecosystems. As oxygen levels decline, energy is increasingly diverted away from higher trophic levels into microbial metabolism, leading to loss of fixed nitrogen and to production of greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide and methane. In this Review, we describe current efforts to explore the fundamental factors that control the ecological and microbial biodiversity in oxygen-starved regions of the ocean, termed oxygen minimum zones. We also discuss how recent advances in microbial ecology have provided information about the potential interactions in distributed co-occurrence and metabolic networks in oxygen minimum zones, and we provide new insights into coupled biogeochemical processes in the ocean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biota*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Nitrous Oxide / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Seawater / microbiology*


  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Methane
  • Oxygen