Biogeochemistry is the scientific discipline that involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment (including the biosphere, the cryosphere, the hydrosphere, the pedosphere, the atmosphere, and the lithosphere). In particular, biogeochemistry is the study of the cycles of chemical elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, and their interactions with and incorporation into living things transported through earth scale biological systems in space through time. The field focuses on chemical cycles which are either driven by or influence biological activity. Particular emphasis is placed on the study of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus cycles. Biogeochemistry is a systems science closely related to systems ecology.


RR5009-0006R BU 130-летие со дня рождения В.И.Вернадского
Vladimir Vernadsky

The founder of biogeochemistry was Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky whose 1926 book The Biosphere,[1] in the tradition of Mendeleev, formulated a physics of the earth as a living whole. Vernadsky distinguished three spheres, where a sphere was a concept similar to the concept of a phase-space. He observed that each sphere had its own laws of evolution, and that the higher spheres modified and dominated the lower:

  1. Abiotic sphere – all the non-living energy and material processes
  2. Biosphere – the life processes that live within the abiotic sphere
  3. Nöesis or noosphere – the sphere of human cognitive process

Human activities (e.g., agriculture and industry) modify the biosphere and abiotic sphere. In the contemporary environment, the amount of influence humans have on the other two spheres is comparable to a geological force (see Anthropocene).

Early development

The American limnologist and geochemist G. Evelyn Hutchinson is credited with outlining the broad scope and principles of this new field. More recently, the basic elements of the discipline of biogeochemistry were restated and popularized by the British scientist and writer, James Lovelock, under the label of the Gaia Hypothesis. Lovelock emphasizes a concept that life processes regulate the Earth through feedback mechanisms to keep it habitable.


There are biogeochemistry research groups in many universities around the world. Since this is a highly inter-disciplinary field, these are situated within a wide range of host disciplines including: atmospheric sciences, biology, ecology, geomicrobiology, environmental chemistry, geology, oceanography and soil science. These are often bracketed into larger disciplines such as earth science and environmental science.

Many researchers investigate the biogeochemical cycles of chemical elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, as well as their stable isotopes. The cycles of trace elements such as the trace metals and the radionuclides are also studied. This research has obvious applications in the exploration for ore deposits and oil, and in remediation of environmental pollution.

Some important research fields for biogeochemistry include:

See also


  1. ^ Vladimir I. Vernadsky, 2007, Essays on Geochemistry & the Biosphere, tr. Olga Barash, Santa Fe, NM, Synergetic Press, ISBN 0-907791-36-0 (originally published in Russian in 1924)

Representative books and publications

  • Vladimir I. Vernadsky, 2007, Essays on Geochemistry & the Biosphere, tr. Olga Barash, Santa Fe, NM, Synergetic Press, ISBN 0-907791-36-0 (originally published in Russian in 1924)
  • Schlesinger, W. H. 1997. Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change, 2nd edition. Academic Press, San Diego, Calif. ISBN 0-12-625155-X.
  • Schlesinger, W.H., 2005. Biogeochemistry. Vol. 8 in: Treatise on Geochemistry. Elsevier Science. ISBN 0-08-044642-6
  • Vladimir N. Bashkin, 2002, Modern Biogeochemistry. Kluwer, ISBN 1-4020-0992-5.
  • Samuel S. Butcher et al. (Eds.), 1992, Global Biogeochemical Cycles. Academic, ISBN 0-12-147685-5.
  • Susan M. Libes, 1992, Introduction to Marine Biogeochemistry. Wiley, ISBN 0-471-50946-9.
  • Dmitrii Malyuga, 1995, Biogeochemical Methods of Prospecting. Springer, ISBN 978-0-306-10682-8.
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles[1]. A journal published by the American Geophysical Union.
  • Cullen, Jay T.; McAlister, Jason (2017). "Chapter 2. Biogeochemistry of Lead. Its Release to the Environment and Chemical Speciation". In Astrid, S.; Helmut, S.; Sigel, R. K. O. (eds.). Lead: Its Effects on Environment and Health. Metal Ions in Life Sciences. 17. de Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110434330-002.
  • Woolman, T. A., & John, C. Y., 2013, An Analysis of the Use of Predictive Modeling with Business Intelligence Systems for Exploration of Precious Metals Using Biogeochemical Data. International Journal of Business Intelligence Research (IJBIR), 4(2), 39-53.v [2].
  • Biogeochemistry [3]. A journal published by Springer.

External links

Aquatic science

Aquatic Science is the multidisciplinary study of aquatic ecosystems, both freshwater and marine. Scientific investigations range in scale from the molecular level of contaminants to the stresses on entire ecosystems.

Some of the major fields of study within aquatic sciences include: limnology (study of lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater); biogeochemistry; aquatic ecology; oceanography; marine biology; and hydrology.

Biological pump

The biological pump, in its simplest form, is the ocean's biologically driven sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean interior and seafloor sediments. It is the part of the oceanic carbon cycle responsible for the cycling of organic matter formed mainly by phytoplankton during photosynthesis (soft-tissue pump), as well as the cycling of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) formed into shells by certain organisms such as plankton and mollusks (carbonate pump).

Chris Freeman (scientist)

Professor Chris Freeman is a British environmental scientist at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Freeman is Professor of Aquatic Biogeochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences in Bangor. Freeman's research focuses on carbon cycling, with an emphasis on peatland carbon storage and dissolved organic carbon dynamics. His work is best known for its description of a mechanism known as the "peatland enzymic latch" and observation of a rising trend in aquatic dissolved organic carbon concentrations. His work has been recognised with awards from the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography and the Royal Society.


Climatology (from Greek κλίμα, klima, "place, zone"; and -λογία, -logia) or climate science is the scientific study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. This modern field of study is regarded as a branch of the atmospheric sciences and a subfield of physical geography, which is one of the Earth sciences. Climatology now includes aspects of oceanography and biogeochemistry. Basic knowledge of climate can be used within shorter term weather forecasting using analog techniques such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO), the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO), the Northern Annular Mode (NAM) which is also known as the Arctic oscillation (AO), the Northern Pacific (NP) Index, the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). Climate models are used for a variety of purposes from study of the dynamics of the weather and climate system to projections of future climate. Weather is known as the condition of the atmosphere over a period of time, while climate has to do with the atmospheric condition over an extended to indefinite period of time.

Ecosystem ecology

Ecosystem ecology is the integrated study of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of ecosystems and their interactions within an ecosystem framework. This science examines how ecosystems work and relates this to their components such as chemicals, bedrock, soil, plants, and animals.

Ecosystem ecology examines physical and biological structures and examines how these ecosystem characteristics interact with each other. Ultimately, this helps us understand how to maintain high quality water and economically viable commodity production. A major focus of ecosystem ecology is on functional processes, ecological mechanisms that maintain the structure and services produced by ecosystems. These include primary productivity (production of biomass), decomposition, and trophic interactions.

Studies of ecosystem function have greatly improved human understanding of sustainable production of forage, fiber, fuel, and provision of water. Functional processes are mediated by regional-to-local level climate, disturbance, and management. Thus ecosystem ecology provides a powerful framework for identifying ecological mechanisms that interact with global environmental problems, especially global warming and degradation of surface water.

This example demonstrates several important aspects of ecosystems:

Ecosystem boundaries are often nebulous and may fluctuate in time

Organisms within ecosystems are dependent on ecosystem level biological and physical processes

Adjacent ecosystems closely interact and often are interdependent for maintenance of community structure and functional processes that maintain productivity and biodiversityThese characteristics also introduce practical problems into natural resource management. Who will manage which ecosystem? Will timber cutting in the forest degrade recreational fishing in the stream? These questions are difficult for land managers to address while the boundary between ecosystems remains unclear; even though decisions in one ecosystem will affect the other. We need better understanding of the interactions and interdependencies of these ecosystems and the processes that maintain them before we can begin to address these questions.

Ecosystem ecology is an inherently interdisciplinary field of study. An individual ecosystem is composed of populations of organisms, interacting within communities, and contributing to the cycling of nutrients and the flow of energy. The ecosystem is the principal unit of study in ecosystem ecology.

Population, community, and physiological ecology provide many of the underlying biological mechanisms influencing ecosystems and the processes they maintain. Flowing of energy and cycling of matter at the ecosystem level are often examined in ecosystem ecology, but, as a whole, this science is defined more by subject matter than by scale. Ecosystem ecology approaches organisms and abiotic pools of energy and nutrients as an integrated system which distinguishes it from associated sciences such as biogeochemistry.Biogeochemistry and hydrology focus on several fundamental ecosystem processes such as biologically mediated chemical cycling of nutrients and physical-biological cycling of water. Ecosystem ecology forms the mechanistic basis for regional or global processes encompassed by landscape-to-regional hydrology, global biogeochemistry, and earth system science.


In oceanic biogeochemistry, the f-ratio is the fraction of total primary production fuelled by nitrate (as opposed to that fuelled by other nitrogen compounds such as ammonium). The ratio was originally defined by Richard Eppley and Bruce Peterson in one of the first papers estimating global oceanic production. This fraction was originally believed significant because it appeared to directly relate to the sinking (export) flux of organic marine snow from the surface ocean by the biological pump. However, this interpretation relied on the assumption of a strong depth-partitioning of a parallel process, nitrification, that more recent measurements has questioned.

Gaia hypothesis

The Gaia hypothesis (, , ), also known as the Gaia theory or the Gaia principle, proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

The hypothesis was formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. Lovelock named the idea after Gaia, the primordial goddess who personified the Earth in Greek mythology. In 2006, the Geological Society of London awarded Lovelock the Wollaston Medal in part for his work on the Gaia hypothesis.Topics related to the hypothesis include how the biosphere and the evolution of organisms affect the stability of global temperature, salinity of seawater, atmospheric oxygen levels, the maintenance of a hydrosphere of liquid water and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.

The Gaia hypothesis was initially criticized for being teleological and against the principles of natural selection, but later refinements aligned the Gaia hypothesis with ideas from fields such as Earth system science, biogeochemistry and systems ecology. Lovelock also once described the "geophysiology" of the Earth. Even so, the Gaia hypothesis continues to attract criticism, and today some scientists consider it to be only weakly supported by, or at odds with, the available evidence.


Geobiology is a field of scientific research that explores the interactions between the physical Earth and the biosphere. It is a relatively young field, and its borders are fluid. There is considerable overlap with the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, microbiology, paleontology, and particularly soil science and biogeochemistry. Geobiology applies the principles and methods of biology, geology, and soil science to the study of the ancient history of the co-evolution of life and Earth as well as the role of life in the modern world. Geobiologic studies tend to be focused on microorganisms, and on the role that life plays in altering the chemical and physical environment of the pedosphere, which exists at the intersection of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and/or cryosphere. It differs from biogeochemistry in that the focus is on processes and organisms over space and time rather than on global chemical cycles.

Geobiological research synthesizes the geologic record with modern biologic studies. It deals with process - how organisms affect the Earth and vice versa - as well as history - how the Earth and life have changed together. Much research is grounded in the search for fundamental understanding, but geobiology can also be applied, as in the case of microbes that clean up oil spills.Geobiology employs molecular biology, environmental microbiology, chemical analyses, and the geologic record to investigate the evolutionary interconnectedness of life and Earth. It attempts to understand how the Earth has changed since the origin of life and what it might have been like along the way. Some definitions of geobiology even push the boundaries of this time frame - to understanding the origin of life and to the role that man has played and will continue to play in shaping the Earth in the Anthropocene.


Geobios is an academic journal published bimonthly by the publishing house Elsevier. Geobios is an international journal of paleontology, focusing on the areas of palaeobiology, palaeoecology, palaeobiogeography, stratigraphy and biogeochemistry.Geobios is indexed and abstracted in: Science Citation Index, ISI, Bulletin signalétique, PASCAL, Geo Abstracts, Biological Abstracts, The Geoscience Database, Referativnyi Zhurnal, SciSearch, Research Alert and Current Contents/Physical, Chemical & Earth Sciences.

ISI-Web of Knowledge 2014 Citation metrics: 2-year ISI Impact Factor: 1.243 (#21/49, Q2); 5-year ISI Impact Factor: 1.337 (#22/49, Q2).

Glory (satellite)

The Glory satellite was a planned NASA satellite mission that would have collected data on the chemical, micro-physical and optical properties—and the spatial and temporal distributions—of sulfate and other aerosols, and would have collected solar irradiance data for the long-term climate record. The science focus areas served by Glory included: atmospheric composition; carbon cycle, ecosystems, and biogeochemistry; climate variability and change; and water and energy cycles. The US$424 million satellite was lost on March 4, 2011, when its Taurus XL carrier rocket malfunctioned. A subsequent investigation revealed that the fairing system failed to open fully, causing the satellite to reenter the atmosphere at which point it likely broke up and burned. NASA investigators later determined the cause for the launch failure to be faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer Sapa Profiles.

Iron(II) sulfide

Iron(II) sulfide or ferrous sulfide (Br.E. sulphide) is one of a family chemical compounds and minerals with the approximate formula FeS. Iron sulfides are often iron-deficient non-stoichiometric. All are black, water-insoluble solids.

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry is located in Jena, Germany. It was created in 1997, and moved into new buildings 2002. It is one of 80 institute in the Max Planck Society (Max Planck Gesellschaft).

Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Otto Hahn Institute) (German: Max Planck Institut für Chemie - Otto Hahn Institut) is a non-university research institute under the auspices of the Max Planck Society (German: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft). It is based in Mainz.

In 2016 research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz aims at an integral understanding of chemical processes in the Earth system, particularly in the atmosphere and biosphere. Investigations address a wide range of interactions between air, water, soil, life and climate in the course of Earth history up to today´s human-driven epoch, the Anthropocene. The Institute consists of five scientific departments (Atmospheric Chemistry, Climate Geochemistry, Biogeochemistry, Multiphase Chemistry, and Particle Chemistry) and additional research groups. The departments are independently led by their Directors.

Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology

The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology (German: Max-Planck-Institut für terrestrische Mikrobiologie) is a research institute for terrestrial microbiology in Marburg, Germany. It was founded in 1991 by Rudolf K. Thauer and is one of 80 institutes in the Max Planck Society (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft). Its sister institute is the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, which was founded a year later in 1992 in Bremen.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center

The ORNL DAAC (Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center) for Biogeochemical Dynamics is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) data center managed by the Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) Project. Established in 1993, the ORNL DAAC is operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, under an interagency agreement between NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE). Within the ORNL, the ORNL DAAC is part of the Remote Sensing and Environmental Informatics Group of the Environmental Sciences Division (ESD) and a contributor to the Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI).EOSDIS data centers process, archive, and distribute data collected during Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite and field missions. They also develop tools for accessing data, provide user services, promote data usage, and collect metrics on the use of data and user satisfaction. The ORNL DAAC specializes on data and information relevant to terrestrial biogeochemistry, ecology, and environmental processes, which are critical to understanding the dynamics of Earth's biological, geological, and chemical components.

As provided on the website,

The mission of the ORNL DAAC is to assemble, distribute, and provide data services for a comprehensive archive of terrestrial biogeochemistry and ecological dynamics observations and models to facilitate research, education, and decision-making in support of NASA's Earth Science.

The ORNL DAAC is listed in the Registry of Research Data Repositories and is a Regular Member of the ISC World Data System.

Redox gradient

A redox gradient is the biogeochemical sorting of reductants and oxidants according to redox potential, with the most reducing conditions at depth, having its origin in the depletion of oxygen and the successive depletion of reactants with depth. They form in stratified environments where oxygen does not penetrate deeper than the immediate surface environment. Examples include waterlogged soils, marine pelagic and hemipelagic sediments, and, most notably, the Black Sea.

Redox gradients in marine sediments can limit the depth at which burrowing animals can dwell, as the anoxic environment of deeper sediment is unsuitable for animals to survive in.


In biogeochemistry, remineralization (US; UK Spelling: remineralisation) refers to the breakdown or transformation of organic matter (those molecules derived from a biological source) into its simplest inorganic forms. These transformations form a crucial link within ecosystems as they are responsible for liberating the energy stored in organic molecules and recycling matter within the system to be reused as nutrients by other organisms.Remineralization is normally viewed as it relates to the cycling of the major biologically-important elements such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. While crucial to all ecosystems, the process receives special consideration in aquatic settings, where it forms a significant link in the biogeochemical dynamics and cycling of aquatic ecosystems.

Solubility pump

In oceanic biogeochemistry, the solubility pump is a physico-chemical process that transports carbon (as dissolved inorganic carbon) from the ocean's surface to its interior.

William H. Schlesinger

William H. Schlesinger (born April 30, 1950) is a biogeochemist and the retired president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, an independent not-for-profit environmental research organization in Millbrook, New York. He assumed that position after 27 years on the faculty of Duke University, where he served as the Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and James B. Duke Professor of Biogeochemistry.

Branches of chemistry
See also

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