The biogeochemical sulfur cycle of marine sediments

Bo Barker Jørgensen, Alyssa J. Findlay, André Pellerin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

320 Scopus citations


Microbial dissimilatory sulfate reduction to sulfide is a predominant terminal pathway of organic matter mineralization in the anoxic seabed. Chemical or microbial oxidation of the produced sulfide establishes a complex network of pathways in the sulfur cycle, leading to intermediate sulfur species and partly back to sulfate. The intermediates include elemental sulfur, polysulfides, thiosulfate, and sulfite, which are all substrates for further microbial oxidation, reduction or disproportionation. New microbiological discoveries, such as long-distance electron transfer through sulfide oxidizing cable bacteria, add to the complexity. Isotope exchange reactions play an important role for the stable isotope geochemistry and for the experimental study of sulfur transformations using radiotracers. Microbially catalyzed processes are partly reversible whereby the back-reaction affects our interpretation of radiotracer experiments and provides a mechanism for isotope fractionation. We here review the progress and current status in our understanding of the sulfur cycle in the seabed with respect to its microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and isotope geochemistry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number849
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAPR
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Stable isotopes
  • Sulfate reducing bacteria
  • Sulfate reduction
  • Sulfide oxidation
  • Sulfide oxidizing bacteria
  • Sulfur disproportionation
  • Sulfur isotope fractionation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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