Despite its restriction to a relatively small number of procaryotes, denitrification exerts a pervasive effect on the metabolism of organisms at many levels of biology. In the development of their Gaia, or Mother Earth, hypothesis of the Earth’s atmosphere as a circulatory system of biological origin, Margulis and Lovelock (1974) attributed a major role to denitrifying bacteria. They concluded that the release of the dinitrogen that formed the major component of the gaseous envelope more than 3000 million years ago greatly influenced the establishment of the control systems necessary for the subsequent evolution of eucaryotes. Today, on a series of lesser but still gigantic scales, denitrification impinges critically upon the nitrogen cycle; heavily upon carbon and energy cycling in both heterotrophic and autotrophic bacteria; destructively upon the fertility of the soil; to an unknown but probably controlling degree, upon the productivity of marshes, bottom sediments and marine upwelling regions; helpfully upon wastewater treatment; and, for now, acceptably upon stratospheric gas composition. Therefore, instead of examining the component parts of the phenomenon, as we have done before (Payne et al., 1980), it might be useful to consider as many of these areas of impact as we can profitably analyze to gain some insights into the total force of denitrification.


Nitric Oxide Nitrous Oxide Nitrite Reductase Tetraethylene Glycol Alcaligenes Faecalis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Payne
    • 1
  • M. A. Grant
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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