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Citation: Marshall, T.A., Granger, J., Casciotti, K.L., Dähnke, K., Emeis, K.-C., Marconi, D., McIlvin, M., Noble, A., Saito, M., Sigman, D.M., Fawcett, S.E. (2022) The Angola Gyre is a hotspot of dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic Ocean. Nature Communications Earth and Environment. 3:151


Abstract: Biological dinitrogen fixation is the major source of new nitrogen to marine systems and thus essential to the ocean’s biological pump. Constraining the distribution and global rate of dinitrogen fixation has proven challenging owing largely to uncertainty surrounding the controls thereon. Existing South Atlantic dinitrogen fixation rate estimates vary five-fold, with models attributing most dinitrogen fixation to the western basin. From hydrographic properties and nitrate isotope ratios, we show that the Angola Gyre in the eastern tropical South Atlantic supports the fixation of 1.4-5.4 Tg N.a-1, 28-108% of the existing (highly uncertain) estimates for the basin. Our observations contradict model diagnoses, revealing a substantial input of newly-fixed N to the tropical eastern basin and no dinitrogen fixation west of 7.5˚W. We propose that dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic occurs in “hotspots” controlled by the overlapping biogeography of excess phosphorus relative to N and bioavailable iron from margin sediments. Similar conditions may promote dinitrogen fixation in analogous ocean regions. Our analysis suggests that local iron availability causes the phosphorus-driven coupling of oceanic dinitrogen fixation to N loss to vary on a regional basis.