3. Ecological importance of cyanobacteria

  1. Naveen K. Sharma3,
  2. Ashwani K. Rai4 and
  3. Lucas J. Stal5
  1. Beatriz Díez1 and
  2. Karolina Ininbergs2

Published Online: 30 NOV 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118402238.ch3

Cyanobacteria: An Economic Perspective

Cyanobacteria: An Economic Perspective

How to Cite

Díez, B. and Ininbergs, K. (2014) Ecological importance of cyanobacteria, in Cyanobacteria: An Economic Perspective (eds N. K. Sharma, A. K. Rai and L. J. Stal), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118402238.ch3

Editor Information

  1. 3

    Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, India

  2. 4

    Banaras Hindu University, India

  3. 5

    Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research & University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Chile, Alameda 340, Casilla 114-D, C.P. 651 3677, Santiago, Chile

  2. 2

    Department of Ecology, Environment & Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, Lilla Frescati 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 NOV 2013
  2. Published Print: 10 JAN 2014

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781119941279

Online ISBN: 9781118402238



  • cyanobacteria;
  • ecology;
  • extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) sheaths;
  • light-harvest pigments;
  • metabolic diversity;
  • nitrogen fixation;
  • nitrogenase


Cyanobacteria inhabit all possible habitats, performing crucial ecological services. Cyanobacterial photopigments generate a great diversity in color. They exhibit several types of chromatic adaptation, regulated at transcriptional and postranscriptional levels. Though all cyanobacteria are fundamentally oxygenic photosynthetic organisms, some species can switch their metabolic mode to, for example, anoxygenic photosynthesis, using sulfide. Many cyanobacteria produce extracellular polysaccharide (EPS) sheaths, which act as a buffer zone between the cell and the environment, and contribute to desiccation tolerance. In nitrogen-limited photic environments (especially those lacking nitrate and ammonium), cyanobacteria are the main diazotrophic (nitrogen-fixing) organisms. The process of nitrogen fixation is catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase. Diazotrophic cyanobacteria have evolved several strategies with different degrees of complexity to protect their nitrogenase from oxygen, which is present in the surrounding medium and also produced intracellularly.