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      Changing nutrient stoichiometry affects phytoplankton production, DOP accumulation and dinitrogen fixation – a mesocosm experiment in the eastern tropical North Atlantic

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          Ocean deoxygenation due to climate change may alter redox-sensitive nutrient cycles in the marine environment. The productive eastern tropical North Atlantic (ETNA) upwelling region may be particularly affected when the relatively moderate oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) deoxygenates further and microbially driven nitrogen (N) loss processes are promoted. Consequently, water masses with a low nitrogen to phosphorus (N : P) ratio could reach the euphotic layer, possibly influencing primary production in those waters. Previous mesocosm studies in the oligotrophic Atlantic Ocean identified nitrate availability as a control of primary production, while a possible co-limitation of nitrate and phosphate could not be ruled out. To better understand the impact of changing N : P ratios on primary production and N<sub>2</sub> fixation in the ETNA surface ocean, we conducted land-based mesocosm experiments with natural plankton communities and applied a broad range of N : P ratios (2.67–48). Silicic acid was supplied at 15 µmol L<sup>−1</sup> in all mesocosms. We monitored nutrient drawdown, biomass accumulation and nitrogen fixation in response to variable nutrient stoichiometry. Our results confirmed nitrate to be the key factor determining primary production. We found that excess phosphate was channeled through particulate organic matter (POP) into the dissolved organic matter (DOP) pool. In mesocosms with low inorganic phosphate availability, DOP was utilized while N<sub>2</sub> fixation increased, suggesting a link between those two processes. Interestingly this observation was most pronounced in mesocosms where nitrate was still available, indicating that bioavailable N does not necessarily suppress N<sub>2</sub> fixation. We observed a shift from a mixed cyanobacteria–proteobacteria dominated active diazotrophic community towards a diatom-diazotrophic association of the <i>Richelia</i>-<i>Rhizosolenia</i> symbiosis. We hypothesize that a potential change in nutrient stoichiometry in the ETNA might lead to a general shift within the diazotrophic community, potentially influencing primary productivity and carbon export.

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          Processes and patterns of oceanic nutrient limitation

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            Impacts of atmospheric anthropogenic nitrogen on the open ocean.

            Increasing quantities of atmospheric anthropogenic fixed nitrogen entering the open ocean could account for up to about a third of the ocean's external (nonrecycled) nitrogen supply and up to approximately 3% of the annual new marine biological production, approximately 0.3 petagram of carbon per year. This input could account for the production of up to approximately 1.6 teragrams of nitrous oxide (N2O) per year. Although approximately 10% of the ocean's drawdown of atmospheric anthropogenic carbon dioxide may result from this atmospheric nitrogen fertilization, leading to a decrease in radiative forcing, up to about two-thirds of this amount may be offset by the increase in N2O emissions. The effects of increasing atmospheric nitrogen deposition are expected to continue to grow in the future.
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              Methods of Seawater Analysis


                Author and article information

                Copernicus GmbH
                February 2016
                : 13
                : 3
                : 781-794
                © 2016




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