This book is devoted to denitrification, an anaerobic process that is used by a wide range of bacteria for energy generation. The overall process involves nitrate, which is present in soil or water, being reduced to gaseous dinitrogen. This initial chapter aims to place denitrification in the larger context of the nitrogen biogeochemical cycle (a bird's eye view). Detailed topics are developed through the many following contributions. Denitrification is a landscape for probing the structures, functions and mechanisms of action of a wide range of highly specialised metalloenzymes. These carry out, sequentially, four oxo-transfer reactions: NO3- → NO2- → NO → N2O → N2. The environmental implications of these processes are of particular relevance. Nitrate accumulation and the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere due to the excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture are examples of two environmental problems in which denitrification plays a central role.