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Microbiological processes in banded iron formation deposition



Banded iron formations have been studied for decades, particularly regarding their potential as archives of the Precambrian environment. In spite of this effort, the mechanism of their deposition and, specifically, the role that microbes played in the precipitation of banded iron formation minerals, remains unresolved. Evidence of an anoxic Earth with only localized oxic areas until the Great Oxidation Event ca 2·45 to 2·32 Ga makes the investigation of O2-independent mechanisms for banded iron formation deposition relevant. Recent studies have explored the long-standing proposition that Archean banded iron formations may have been formed, and diagenetically modified, by anaerobic microbial metabolisms. These efforts encompass a wide array of approaches including isotope, ecophysiological and phylogeny studies, molecular and mineral marker analysis, and sedimentological reconstructions. Herein, the current theories of microbial processes in banded iron formation mineral deposition with particular regard to the mechanisms of chemical sedimentation and post-depositional alteration are described. The main findings of recent years are summarized and compared here, and suggestions are made regarding cross-disciplinary information still required to constrain the role of the biosphere in banded iron formation deposition.