Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 2–19 | Cite as

Geomicrobial functional groups: A window on the interaction between life and environments

  • ShuCheng Xie
  • Huan Yang
  • GenMing Luo
  • XianYu Huang
  • Deng Liu
  • YongBiao Wang
  • YiMing Gong
  • Ran Xu
Open Access
Review Progress of Projects Supported by NSFC Geology


Microbes are well-known for their great diversity and abundance in modern natural environments. They also are believed to provide critical links among higher organisms and their associated environments. However, the low diversity of morphological features and structures of ancient microbes preserved in sediments and rocks make them difficult to identify and classify. This difficulty greatly hinders the investigation of geomicrobes throughout Earth history. Thus, most previous paleontological studies have focused on faunal and floral fossils. Here, geomicrobial functional groups (GFGs), or a collection of microbes featured in specific ecological, physiological or biogeochemical functions, are suggested to provide a way to overcome the difficulties of ancient microbe investigations. GFGs are known for their great diversity in ecological, physiological and biogeochemical functions. In addition, GFGs may be preserved as the biogeochemical, mineralogical and sedimentological records in sediments and rocks. We reviewed the functions, origins and identification diagnostics of some important GFGs involved in the elemental cycles of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and iron. GFGs were further discussed with respect to their significant impacts on paleoclimate, sulfur chemistry of ancient seawater, nutritional status of geological environments, and the deposition of Precambrian banded iron formations.


geomicrobial functional group carbon-sulfur-nitrogen cycle iron reduction and oxidation photosynthesis molecular fossils geobiology critical periods 


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© The Author(s) 2012

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • ShuCheng Xie
    • 1
  • Huan Yang
    • 1
  • GenMing Luo
    • 2
  • XianYu Huang
    • 2
  • Deng Liu
    • 1
  • YongBiao Wang
    • 2
  • YiMing Gong
    • 1
  • Ran Xu
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental GeologyChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral ResourcesChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina

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