The appearance of dioxygen (O2) in the atmosphere of the earth as a result of biological activity, particularly the photosynthetic activity of cyanobacteria
The Great Oxygenation Event is defined as the appearance of dioxygen (O2) in the earth’s atmosphere as induced by the biological activities of living organisms.1 The cyanobacteria triggered this event when they produced oxygen as early as 2.3 billion years ago.2 The appearance of dioxygen in the atmosphere triggered, in turn, the abundance of oxygen in the earth’s biosphere, air, sea, and land, which is essential in the development of multicellularity of life on earth. Biologically, the oxygen plays a crucial role in various biochemical and physiological processes, such as in cellular respiration. Its presence makes cellular respiration about ten times more efficient in yielding ATP. The high concentration of oxygen on earth makes the latter different from the other planets of the Solar System. This is made possible by the oxygen cycle driven by photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis, the oxygen is released into the atmosphere. The oxygen is then consumed through respiration and decay.
The appearance of oxygen through photosynthesis several years ago is associated with cyanobacteria, which appeared about 200 million years prior to the Great Oxygenation Event.3 Their production of oxygen through photosynthesis came to a point when free oxygen was in excess and started accumulating in the atmosphere.
Abbreviation / Acronym: GOE
- Oxygen Catastrophy
- Oxygen Crisis
- Oxygen Holocaust
- Oxygen Revolution
- Great Oxidation
1 Sosa Torres, M. E., Saucedo-Vázquez, J. P., & Kroneck, P. 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 University of Zurich. (2013, January 17). Great Oxidation Event: More oxygen through multicellularity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130117084856.htm
3 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.