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The Role of Bacteria in Environmental Geochemistry

By
A.L. Mills
A.L. Mills
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Clark Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903
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Published:
January 01, 1997

Abstract

Many of the geochemical processes occurring at earth-surface temperature and pressure are influenced by microorganisms, particularly the bacteria. Like any other living entity, the bacteria as an aggregate have a single goal, to reproduce and perpetuate their life-form. To accomplish this goal the bacteria must utilize energy and materials that can only be obtained from their surrounding environment. As the process of growth and reproduction occurs, a variety of changes occur in the environment in which the microbe lives. The chemical makeup of waters inhabited by bacteria is altered, and any equilibrium reactions taking place in that water or between that water and associated solid phases may cause a shift in the chemical composition of aqueous- or solid-phase materials. Some materials, such as oxygen, may simply be consumed by the microbes. The resultant anoxic conditions may induce concomitant changes in some redox-sensitive species of elements such as sulfur. Bacterial utilization or production of oxidized or reduced chemical species may cause further large shifts in the redox status of the local environment. Production of acidogenic or proton-consumptive species can cause radical shifts in pH in either direction, depending on the organism, the starting material, and the products formed. Indeed, the current state of the earth's surface conditions is due in large part to the action of microorganisms on the chemicals found in the environment. Photosynthetic organisms (including the cyanobacteria, which are often referred to as blue-green algae) created the oxidizing atmosphere. Many important geochemical reactions occur against thermodynamic predictions, while others occur at rates that would be considered impossible if only the abiotic reactions operated.

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The Environmental Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits: Part A: Processes, Techniques, and Health Issues Part B: Case Studies and Research Topics

G.S. Plumlee
G.S. Plumlee
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M.J. Logsdon
M.J. Logsdon
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L.F. Filipek
L.F. Filipek
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
6
ISBN electronic:
9781629490137
Publication date:
January 01, 1997

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