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Great Oxygenation Event

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Title: Great Oxygenation Event  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Snowball Earth, Oxygen, Paleoclimatology, Atmosphere of Earth, GOE
Collection: Climate History, Extinction Events, Geological History of Earth, Origin of Life, Oxygen, Proterozoic
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Great Oxygenation Event

The Great Oxygenation Event (GOE), also called the Oxygen Catastrophe, Oxygen Crisis, Oxygen Holocaust, Oxygen Revolution, or Great Oxidation, was the biologically induced appearance of dioxygen (O2) in Earth's atmosphere.[1] Geological, isotopic, and chemical evidence suggest that this major environmental change happened around 2.3 billion years ago (2.3 Ga).[2]

O2 build-up in the Earth's atmosphere. Red and green lines represent the range of the estimates while time is measured in billions of years ago (Ga).
Stage 1 (3.85–2.45 Ga): Practically no O2 in the atmosphere.
Stage 2 (2.45–1.85 Ga): O2 produced, but absorbed in oceans and seabed rock.
Stage 3 (1.85–0.85 Ga): O2 starts to gas out of the oceans, but is absorbed by land surfaces.
Stages 4 and 5 (0.85–present): O2 sinks filled and the gas accumulates.[3]

Cyanobacteria, which appeared about 200 million years before the GOE,[4] began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. Before the GOE, any free oxygen they produced was chemically captured by dissolved iron or organic matter. The GOE was the point when these oxygen sinks became saturated and could not capture all of the oxygen that was produced by cyanobacterial photosynthesis. After the GOE, the excess free oxygen started to accumulate in the atmosphere.

Free oxygen is toxic to

  • First breath: Earth's billion-year struggle for oxygen New Scientist, #2746, 5 February 2010 by Nick Lane. [4]

External links

  1. ^ Sosa Torres, Martha E.; Saucedo-Vázquez, Juan P.; Kroneck, Peter M.H. (2015). "Chapter 1, Section 2 "The rise of dioxygen in the atmosphere"". In Peter M.H. Kroneck and Martha E. Sosa Torres. Sustaining Life on Planet Earth: Metalloenzymes Mastering Dioxygen and Other Chewy Gases. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 15. Springer. pp. 1–12.  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Holland, Heinrich D. "The oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. Vol. 361. 2006. pp. 903–915.
  4. ^ Flannery, D. T.; R.M. Walter (2012). "Archean tufted microbial mats and the Great Oxidation Event: new insights into an ancient problem". Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 59 (1): 1–11.  
  5. ^ Oxygen oasis in Antarctic lake reflects Earth in distant past
  6. ^ a b Frei, R.; Gaucher, C.; Poulton, S. W.; Canfield, D. E. (2009). "Fluctuations in Precambrian atmospheric oxygenation recorded by chromium isotopes". Nature 461 (7261): 250–253.  
  7. ^ Dutkiewicz, A.; Volk, H.; George, S. C.; Ridley, J.; Buick, R. (2006). "Biomarkers from Huronian oil-bearing fluid inclusions: an uncontaminated record of life before the Great Oxidation Event". Geology 34 (6): 437.  
  8. ^ Anbar, A.; Duan, Y.; Lyons, T.; Arnold, G.; Kendall, B.; Creaser, R.; Kaufman, A.; Gordon, G.; Scott, C.; Garvin, J.; Buick, R. (2007). "A whiff of oxygen before the great oxidation event?". Science 317 (5846): 1903–1906.  
  9. ^ Dole, M. (1965). "The Natural History of Oxygen". The Journal of General Physiology 49 (1): Suppl:Supp5–27.  
  10. ^ a b c Robert E. Kopp, Joseph L. Kirschvink, Isaac A. Hilburn, and Cody Z. Nash (2005). "The Paleoproterozoic snowball Earth: A climate disaster triggered by the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102 (32): 11131–6.  
  11. ^ First breath: Earth's billion-year struggle for oxygen New Scientist, #2746, 5 February 2010 by Nick Lane. A snowball period, c2.4 - c2.0 Gya, triggered by the Oxygen catastrophe[3]
  12. ^ Sperling, Erik; Frieder, Christina; Raman, Akkur; Girguis, Peter; Levin, Lisa; Knoll, Andrew. "Oxygen, ecology, and the Cambrian radiation of animals". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Lenton, T. M.; H. J. Schellnhuber; E. Szathmáry (2004). "Climbing the co-evolution ladder".  
  14. ^ Kurt O. Konhauser; et al. (2009). "Oceanic nickel depletion and a methanogen famine before the Great Oxidation Event". Nature 458 (7239): 750–753.  
  15. ^ Goldblatt, C.; T.M. Lenton; A.J. Watson (2006). "The Great Oxidation at 2.4 Ga as a bistability in atmospheric oxygen due to UV shielding by ozone" (PDF). Geophysical Research Abstracts 8: 00770. 
  16. ^ "Evolution of Minerals", Scientific American, March 2010


See also

Great Oxygenation
End of Huronian glaciation

Million years ago. Age of Earth = 4,560

The Great Oxygenation Event triggered an explosive growth in the diversity of minerals on Earth. It is estimated that this event alone was directly responsible for more than 2,500 new minerals of the total of about 4,500 minerals found on Earth. Most of these new minerals were hydrated, oxidized forms of minerals formed due to dynamic mantle and crust processes after the Great Oxygenation event.[16]

Role in mineral diversification

There is a possibility that the oxygen indicator was misinterpreted. During the proposed time of the lag in the previous theory, there was change from mass-independently fractionated (MIF) sulfur to mass-dependently fractionated (MDF) sulfur in sediments. This was assumed to be a result of the appearance of oxygen in the atmosphere (since oxygen would have prevented the photolysis of sulfur dioxide, which causes MIF). This change from MIF to MDF of sulfur isotopes also may have been caused by an increase in glacial weathering, or the homogenization of the marine sulfur pool as a result of an increased thermal gradient during the Huronian glaciation period.[10]

Late evolution of oxy-photosynthesis theory

A 2006 theory, called bistability, comes from a mathematical model of the atmosphere. In this model, UV shielding decreases the rate of methane oxidation once oxygen levels are sufficient to support the formation of an ozone layer. This explanation proposes an atmospheric system with two steady states, one with lower (0.02%) atmospheric oxygen content, and the other with higher (21% or more) oxygen content. The Great Oxidation can then be understood as a switch between lower and upper stable steady states.[15]


methane, which was an important trap for molecular oxygen, because oxygen readily oxidizes methane to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water in the presence of UV radiation. Modern methanogens require nickel as an enzyme cofactor. As the Earth's crust cooled, the supply of nickel from volcanoes was reduced and less methane was produced. This allowed the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere to increase. From 2.7 to 2.4 billion years ago, the levels of nickel deposited declined steadily; it was originally 400 times today's levels.[14]

Nickel famine

The oxygen increase had to await tectonically driven changes in the Earth, including the appearance of shelf seas, where reduced organic carbon could reach the sediments and be buried.[13] The newly produced oxygen was first consumed in various chemical reactions in the oceans, primarily with iron. Evidence is found in older rocks that contain massive banded iron formations that were apparently laid down as this iron and oxygen first combined; most of the planet's commercial iron ore is in these deposits.

Tectonic trigger

The gap between the start of oxygen production from photosynthetic organisms and the geologically rapid increase in atmospheric oxygen (about 2.5–2.4 billion years ago) may have been as long as 900 million years. Several hypotheses might explain the time lag:

Time lag theory

[12] Despite the natural recycling of

The latter may have been a full-blown, and possibly the longest ever, snowball Earth episode, lasting 300–400 million years.[10][11] Second, the increased oxygen concentrations provided a new opportunity for biological diversification, as well as tremendous changes in the nature of chemical interactions between rocks, sand, clay, and other geological substrates and the Earth's air, oceans, and other surface waters.

Either way, the oxygen did eventually accumulate in the atmosphere, with two major consequences. First, it oxidized atmospheric methane (a strong greenhouse gas) to carbon dioxide (a weaker one) and water, triggering the Huronian glaciation.

Another hypothesis is that oxygen producers did not evolve until right before the major rise in atmospheric oxygen concentration.[10] This is based on interpretation of the supposed oxygen indicator, mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes, used in previous studies. This hypothesis would eliminate the need to explain a lag in time between the evolution of oxyphotosynthetic microbes and the rise in free oxygen.

For example, at today's rates of photosynthesis (which are much greater than those in the land-plant-free Precambrian), modern atmospheric O2 levels could be produced in around 2,000 years.[9]

Oxygen only began to persist in the atmosphere in small quantities shortly (~50 million years) before the start of the GOE.[8] Without a draw-down, oxygen could accumulate very rapidly.

The oxygen they produced would have quickly been removed from the atmosphere by the weathering of reduced minerals, most notably iron. This 'mass rusting' led to the deposition of iron(III) oxide to form banded-iron formations such as those sediments in Minnesota and Pilbara, Western Australia.

perhaps as early as . [7] The most widely accepted chronology of the Great Oxygenation Event suggests that free oxygen was first produced by prokaryotic and then later

2.1 billion year old rock showing banded iron formation
Timeline of glaciations, shown in blue.



  • Timing 1
  • Time lag theory 2
    • Tectonic trigger 2.1
    • Nickel famine 2.2
    • Bistability 2.3
  • Late evolution of oxy-photosynthesis theory 3
  • Role in mineral diversification 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Eventually, Free oxygen has been an important constituent of the atmosphere ever since.[6]

[6] episode in the Earth's history.snowball Earth, possibly the longest Huronian glaciation, greatly reducing its concentration and triggering the greenhouse gas, a methane Additionally, the free oxygen reacted with atmospheric [5]

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