Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean

John Raven, Douglas G. Capone, Edward J. Carpenter, David A. Hutchins, Sergio A. Sanudo-Wilhelmy, Adam B. Kustka, Christopher J. Gobler, Min Yang, Kamazima Lwiza, James Burn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    423 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Marine fixation of atmospheric nitrogen is believed to be an important source of biologically useful nitrogen to ocean surface waters, stimulating productivity of phytoplankton and so influencing the global carbon cycle. The majority of nitrogen fixation in tropical waters is carried out by the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, which supplies more than half of the new nitrogen used for primary production. Although the factors controlling marine nitrogen fixation remain poorly understood, it has been thought that nitrogen fixation is limited by iron availability in the ocean. This was inferred from the high iron requirement estimated for growth of nitrogen fixing organisms and the higher apparent densities of Trichodesmium where aeolian iron inputs are plentiful. Here we report that nitrogen fixation rates in the central Atlantic appear to be independent of both dissolved iron levels in sea water and iron content in Trichodesmium colonies. Nitrogen fixation was, instead, highly correlated to the phosphorus content of Trichodesmium and was enhanced at higher irradiance. Furthermore, our calculations suggest that the structural iron requirement for the growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms is much lower than previously calculated. Although iron deficiency could still potentially limit growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms in regions of low iron availability—for example, in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean—our observations suggest that marine nitrogen fixation is not solely regulated by iron supply.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)66-69
    Number of pages4
    JournalNature
    Volume411
    Issue number6833
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2001

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    nitrogen fixation
    phosphorus
    iron
    ocean
    nitrogen
    carbon cycle
    fixation
    irradiance
    primary production
    cyanobacterium
    sea surface
    phytoplankton
    seawater
    surface water
    productivity

    Cite this

    Raven, J., Capone, D. G., Carpenter, E. J., Hutchins, D. A., Sanudo-Wilhelmy, S. A., Kustka, A. B., ... Burn, J. (2001). Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean. Nature, 411(6833), 66-69. https://doi.org/10.1038/35075041
    Raven, John ; Capone, Douglas G. ; Carpenter, Edward J. ; Hutchins, David A. ; Sanudo-Wilhelmy, Sergio A. ; Kustka, Adam B. ; Gobler, Christopher J. ; Yang, Min ; Lwiza, Kamazima ; Burn, James. / Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean. In: Nature. 2001 ; Vol. 411, No. 6833. pp. 66-69.
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    title = "Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean",
    abstract = "Marine fixation of atmospheric nitrogen is believed to be an important source of biologically useful nitrogen to ocean surface waters, stimulating productivity of phytoplankton and so influencing the global carbon cycle. The majority of nitrogen fixation in tropical waters is carried out by the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, which supplies more than half of the new nitrogen used for primary production. Although the factors controlling marine nitrogen fixation remain poorly understood, it has been thought that nitrogen fixation is limited by iron availability in the ocean. This was inferred from the high iron requirement estimated for growth of nitrogen fixing organisms and the higher apparent densities of Trichodesmium where aeolian iron inputs are plentiful. Here we report that nitrogen fixation rates in the central Atlantic appear to be independent of both dissolved iron levels in sea water and iron content in Trichodesmium colonies. Nitrogen fixation was, instead, highly correlated to the phosphorus content of Trichodesmium and was enhanced at higher irradiance. Furthermore, our calculations suggest that the structural iron requirement for the growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms is much lower than previously calculated. Although iron deficiency could still potentially limit growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms in regions of low iron availability—for example, in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean—our observations suggest that marine nitrogen fixation is not solely regulated by iron supply.",
    author = "John Raven and Capone, {Douglas G.} and Carpenter, {Edward J.} and Hutchins, {David A.} and Sanudo-Wilhelmy, {Sergio A.} and Kustka, {Adam B.} and Gobler, {Christopher J.} and Min Yang and Kamazima Lwiza and James Burn",
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    Raven, J, Capone, DG, Carpenter, EJ, Hutchins, DA, Sanudo-Wilhelmy, SA, Kustka, AB, Gobler, CJ, Yang, M, Lwiza, K & Burn, J 2001, 'Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean', Nature, vol. 411, no. 6833, pp. 66-69. https://doi.org/10.1038/35075041

    Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean. / Raven, John; Capone, Douglas G.; Carpenter, Edward J.; Hutchins, David A.; Sanudo-Wilhelmy, Sergio A.; Kustka, Adam B.; Gobler, Christopher J.; Yang, Min; Lwiza, Kamazima; Burn, James.

    In: Nature, Vol. 411, No. 6833, 2001, p. 66-69.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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    T1 - Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean

    AU - Raven, John

    AU - Capone, Douglas G.

    AU - Carpenter, Edward J.

    AU - Hutchins, David A.

    AU - Sanudo-Wilhelmy, Sergio A.

    AU - Kustka, Adam B.

    AU - Gobler, Christopher J.

    AU - Yang, Min

    AU - Lwiza, Kamazima

    AU - Burn, James

    N1 - dc.publisher: Nature Publishing Group

    PY - 2001

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    N2 - Marine fixation of atmospheric nitrogen is believed to be an important source of biologically useful nitrogen to ocean surface waters, stimulating productivity of phytoplankton and so influencing the global carbon cycle. The majority of nitrogen fixation in tropical waters is carried out by the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, which supplies more than half of the new nitrogen used for primary production. Although the factors controlling marine nitrogen fixation remain poorly understood, it has been thought that nitrogen fixation is limited by iron availability in the ocean. This was inferred from the high iron requirement estimated for growth of nitrogen fixing organisms and the higher apparent densities of Trichodesmium where aeolian iron inputs are plentiful. Here we report that nitrogen fixation rates in the central Atlantic appear to be independent of both dissolved iron levels in sea water and iron content in Trichodesmium colonies. Nitrogen fixation was, instead, highly correlated to the phosphorus content of Trichodesmium and was enhanced at higher irradiance. Furthermore, our calculations suggest that the structural iron requirement for the growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms is much lower than previously calculated. Although iron deficiency could still potentially limit growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms in regions of low iron availability—for example, in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean—our observations suggest that marine nitrogen fixation is not solely regulated by iron supply.

    AB - Marine fixation of atmospheric nitrogen is believed to be an important source of biologically useful nitrogen to ocean surface waters, stimulating productivity of phytoplankton and so influencing the global carbon cycle. The majority of nitrogen fixation in tropical waters is carried out by the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, which supplies more than half of the new nitrogen used for primary production. Although the factors controlling marine nitrogen fixation remain poorly understood, it has been thought that nitrogen fixation is limited by iron availability in the ocean. This was inferred from the high iron requirement estimated for growth of nitrogen fixing organisms and the higher apparent densities of Trichodesmium where aeolian iron inputs are plentiful. Here we report that nitrogen fixation rates in the central Atlantic appear to be independent of both dissolved iron levels in sea water and iron content in Trichodesmium colonies. Nitrogen fixation was, instead, highly correlated to the phosphorus content of Trichodesmium and was enhanced at higher irradiance. Furthermore, our calculations suggest that the structural iron requirement for the growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms is much lower than previously calculated. Although iron deficiency could still potentially limit growth of nitrogen-fixing organisms in regions of low iron availability—for example, in the subtropical North Pacific Ocean—our observations suggest that marine nitrogen fixation is not solely regulated by iron supply.

    U2 - 10.1038/35075041

    DO - 10.1038/35075041

    M3 - Article

    VL - 411

    SP - 66

    EP - 69

    JO - Nature

    JF - Nature

    SN - 0028-0836

    IS - 6833

    ER -

    Raven J, Capone DG, Carpenter EJ, Hutchins DA, Sanudo-Wilhelmy SA, Kustka AB et al. Phosphorus limitation of nitrogen fixation by Trichodesmium in the central Atlantic Ocean. Nature. 2001;411(6833):66-69. https://doi.org/10.1038/35075041