Capone Douglas

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    Eastern Tropical South Pacific Nitrogen fixation
    (Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). Contact:, 2015-04-16) Knapp, Angela ; Casciotti, Karen L. ; Berelson, William M. ; Prokopenko, Maria ; Capone, Douglas
    An extensive region of the Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP) Ocean has surface waters that are nitrate-poor yet phosphate-rich. It has been proposed that this distribution of surface nutrients provides a geochemical niche favorable for N2 fixation, the primary source of nitrogen to the ocean. Here, we present results from two cruises to the ETSP where rates of N2 fixation and its contribution to export production were determined with a suite of geochemical and biological measurements. N2 fixation was only detectable using nitrogen isotopic mass balances at two of six stations, and rates ranged from 0 to 23 µmol N m-2 d-1 based on sediment trap fluxes. Whereas the fractional importance of N2 fixation did not change, the N2-fixation rates at these two stations were several-fold higher when scaled to other productivity metrics. Regardless of the choice of productivity metric these N2-fixation rates are low compared with other oligotrophic locations, and the nitrogen isotope budgets indicate that N2 fixation supports no more than 20% of export production regionally. Although euphotic zone-integrated short-term N2-fixation rates were higher, up to 100 µmol N m-2 d-1, and detected N2 fixation at all six stations, studies of nitrogenase gene abundance and expression from the same cruises align with the geochemical data and together indicate that N2 fixation is a minor source of new nitrogen to surface waters of the ETSP. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that, despite a relative abundance of phosphate, iron may limit N2 fixation in the ETSP.