Bernhard Schink

Bernhard Schink (Germany) has contributed essentially to our understanding of the limits and principles of anaerobic, oxygen-independent transformations of organic matter in anoxic environments such as lake sediments or bioreactors. A major part of his work has concentrated on the oxygen-independent activation of comparably inert substrates such as aromatic compounds, hydrocarbons, ether compounds and others. A further focus of his work deals with the energetic limitations of anaerobic fermentations in syntrophic couplings in which fermenting bacteria and methanogenic archaea cooperate with energy yields that are equivalent to only fractions of an ATP equivalent. In this context, an unusual fermenting bacterium was isolated, Propigenium modestum, which covers its entire energy metabolism by a decarboxylation reaction. Other exciting new discoveries were the anaerobic oxidation of Fe(II) compounds by phototrophic and nitrate-reducing bacteria, and the phototrophic oxidation of nitrite. All these discoveries have led to major reorganizations of global cycling of matter, and to a revision of the evolution of the oxygenic atmosphere on earth.