What Are the Three Types of Anaerobic Respiration?


While aerobic respiration (with oxygen) is more efficient at producing energy for a cell to use, some organisms live in places where they do not have access to oxygen. They must instead make use of anaerobic respiration.


  • While all organisms that use aerobic respiration do so in basically the same way, there are a variety of types of anaerobic respiration. The most common are nitrate reduction, sulfate reduction and carbonate reduction.


  • All forms of cellular respiration function to produce ATP, which the cell uses to transport energy. All forms of anaerobic respiration are less efficient than aerobic respiration.

Nitrate Reduction

  • Nitrate reduction works by reducing nitrate (NO3-) to nitrite (NO2-), consuming hydrogen ions and producing water in the process. Some microorganisms can reduce the nitrite even further, all the way to nitrogen gas in some cases, but the bacteria must do this carefully as some of the intermediate products are toxic.

Sulfate Reduction

  • Sulfate reduction is only seen in organisms that live in environments with very small amounts of oxygen. It works by reducing sulfate (SO4-2) to sulfide (S-2).

Carbonate Reduction

  • There are several ways of producing energy by reducing carbonate. Most start with carbonate (CO3) and reduce it to methane (CH4) or acetic acid (CH3COOH).


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