Archaea in biogeochemical cycles

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2013:67:437-57. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-092412-155614. Epub 2013 Jun 26.


Archaea constitute a considerable fraction of the microbial biomass on Earth. Like Bacteria they have evolved a variety of energy metabolisms using organic and/or inorganic electron donors and acceptors, and many of them are able to fix carbon from inorganic sources. Archaea thus play crucial roles in the Earth's global geochemical cycles and influence greenhouse gas emissions. Methanogenesis and anaerobic methane oxidation are important steps in the carbon cycle; both are performed exclusively by anaerobic archaea. Oxidation of ammonia to nitrite is performed by Thaumarchaeota. They represent the only archaeal group that resides in large numbers in the global aerobic terrestrial and marine environments on Earth. Sulfur-dependent archaea are confined mostly to hot environments, but metal leaching by acidophiles and reduction of sulfate by anaerobic, nonthermophilic methane oxidizers have a potential impact on the environment. The metabolisms of a large number of archaea, in particular those dominating the subsurface, remain to be explored.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Archaea / classification
  • Archaea / genetics
  • Archaea / metabolism*
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena*
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phylogeny
  • Sulfates / metabolism


  • Sulfates
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Methane