Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Dinitrogen (N2) fixation can alleviate N limitation of primary productivity by introducing fixed nitrogen (N) to the world's oceans. Although measurements of pelagic marine N2 fixation are predominantly from oligotrophic oceanic regions, where N limitation is thought to favor growth of diazotrophic microbes, here we report high rates of N2 fixation from seven cruises spanning four seasons in temperate, western North Atlantic coastal waters along the North American continental shelf between Cape Hatteras and Nova Scotia, an area representing 6.4% of the North Atlantic continental shelf area. Integrating average areal rates of N2 fixation during each season and for each domain in the study area, the estimated N input from N2 fixation to this temperate shelf system is 0.02 Tmol N y-1, an amount equivalent to that previously estimated for the entire North Atlantic continental shelf. Unicellular group A cyanobacteria (UCYN-A) were most often the dominant diazotrophic group expressing nifH, a gene encoding the nitrogenase enzyme, throughout the study area during all seasons. This expands the domain of these diazotrophs to include coastal waters where dissolved N concentrations are not always depleted. Further, the high rates of N2 fixation and diazotroph diversity along the western North Atlantic continental shelf underscore the need to reexamine the biogeography and activity of diazotrophs along continental margins. Accounting for this substantial, but previously overlooked source of new N to marine systems, necessitates revisions to global marine N budgets.
Original Publication Citation
Mulholland, M. R., Bernhardt, P. W., Widner, B. N., Selden, C. R., Chappell, P. D., Clayton, S., . . . Hyde, K. (2019). High rates of N2 fixation in temperate, western North Atlantic coastal waters expands the realm of marine diazotrophy. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 33, 1-15. doi:10.1029/2018GB006130
Mulholland, Margaret R.; Bernhardt, P. W.; Widner, Brittany; Selden, C. R.; Chappell, P. D.; Clayton, S.; Mannino, A.; and Hyde, K., "High rates of N² Fixation in Temperate, Western North Atlantic Coastal Waters Expands the Realm of Marine Diazotrophy" (2019). OEAS Faculty Publications. 355.
0000-0001-8819-189X (Mulholland), 0000-0003-3848-7013 (Bernhardt), 0000-0002-1527-2717 (Widner), 0000-0002-5721-3061 (Selden), 0000-0001-5212-6228 (Chappell), 0000-0001-7473-4873 (Clayton)