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Earth System Science Data








Marine diazotrophs convert dinitrogen (N2) gas into bioavailable nitrogen (N), supporting life in the global ocean. In 2012, the first version of the global oceanic diazotroph database (version 1) was published. Here, we present an updated version of the database (version 2), significantly increasing the number of in situ diazotrophic measurements from 13 565 to 55 286. Data points for N2 fixation rates, diazotrophic cell abundance, and nifH gene copy abundance have increased by 184 %, 86 %, and 809 %, respectively. Version 2 includes two new data sheets for the nifH gene copy abundance of non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs and cell-specific N2 fixation rates. The measurements of N2 fixation rates approximately follow a log-normal distribution in both version 1 and version 2. However, version 2 considerably extends both the left and right tails of the distribution. Consequently, when estimating global oceanic N2 fixation rates using the geometric means of different ocean basins, version 1 and version 2 yield similar rates (43–57 versus 45–63 Tg N yr−1; ranges based on one geometric standard error). In contrast, when using arithmetic means, version 2 suggests a significantly higher rate of 223±30 Tg N yr−1 (mean ± standard error; same hereafter) compared to version 1 (74±7 Tg N yr−1). Specifically, substantial rate increases are estimated for the South Pacific Ocean (88±23 versus 20±2 Tg N yr−1), primarily driven by measurements in the southwestern subtropics, and for the North Atlantic Ocean (40±9 versus 10±2 Tg N yr−1). Moreover, version 2 estimates the N2 fixation rate in the Indian Ocean to be 35±14 Tg N yr−1, which could not be estimated using version 1 due to limited data availability. Furthermore, a comparison of N2 fixation rates obtained through different measurement methods at the same months, locations, and depths reveals that the conventional 15N2 bubble method yields lower rates in 69 % cases compared to the new 15N2 dissolution method. This updated version of the database can facilitate future studies in marine ecology and biogeochemistry. The database is stored at the Figshare repository (; Shao et al., 2022).


© The Authors 2023.

This work is distributed under the Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

Data Availability

Article states: "The database is available in a data repository (, Shao et al., 2022)."

Original Publication Citation

Shao, Z., Xu, Y., Wang, H., Luo, W., Wang, L., Huang, Y., Agawin, N. S. R., Ahmed, A., Benavides, M., Bentzon-Tilia, M., Berman-Frank, I., Berthelot, H., Biegala, I. C., Bif, M. B., Bode, A., Bonnet, S., Bronk, D. A., Brown, M. V., Campbell, L., . . . Luo, Y.-W. (2023). Global oceanic diazotroph database version 2 and elevated estimate of global oceanic N2 fixation. Earth System Science Data, 15(8), 3673-3709.


0000-0001-8819-189X (Mulholland)