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ISME J. 2007 Nov;1(7):606-19. Epub 2007 Oct 4.

Modeled contributions of three types of diazotrophs to nitrogen fixation at Station ALOHA.

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  • 1Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.


A diagnostic model based on biomass and growth was used to assess the relative contributions of filamentous nonheterocystous Trichodesmium and unicellular cyanobacteria, termed Groups A and B, to nitrogen fixation at the North Pacific Station ALOHA over a 2-year period. Average (and 95% confidence interval, CI) annual rates of modeled monthly values for Trichodesmium, Group B and Group A were 92 (52), 14 (4) and 12 (8) mmol N per m(2) per year, respectively. The fractional contribution to modeled instantaneous nitrogen fixation by each diazotroph fluctuated on interannual, seasonal and shorter time scales. Trichodesmium fixed substantially more nitrogen in year 1 (162) than year 2 (12). Group B fixed almost two times more nitrogen in year 1 (17) than year 2 (9). In contrast, Group A fixed two times more nitrogen in year 2 (16) than year 1 (8). When including uncertainties in our estimates using the bootstrap approach, the range of unicellular nitrogen fixation extended from 10% to 68% of the total annual rate of nitrogen fixation for all three diazotrophs. Furthermore, on a seasonal basis, the model demonstrated that unicellular diazotrophs fixed the majority (51%-97%) of nitrogen during winter and spring, whereas Trichodesmium dominated nitrogen fixation during summer and autumn (60%-96%). Sensitivity of the modeled rates to some parameters suggests that this unique attempt to quantify relative rates of nitrogen fixation by different diazotrophs may need to be reevaluated as additional information on cell size, variability in biomass and C:N, and growth characteristics of the different cyanobacterial diazotrophs become available.

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