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Diverse diazotrophs are present on sinking particles in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

  • Farnelid, Hanna
  • Turk-Kubo, Kendra
  • Ploug, Helle
  • Ossolinski, Justin E
  • Collins, James R
  • Van Mooy, Benjamin AS
  • Zehr, Jonathan P
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
eScholarship - University of California
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Sinking particles transport carbon and nutrients from the surface ocean into the deep sea and are considered hot spots for bacterial diversity and activity. In the oligotrophic oceans, nitrogen (N2)-fixing organisms (diazotrophs) are an important source of new N but the extent to which these organisms are present and exported on sinking particles is not well known. Sinking particles were collected every 6 h over a 2-day period using net traps deployed at 150 m in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The bacterial community and composition of diazotrophs associated with individual and bulk sinking particles was assessed using 16S rRNA and nifH gene amplicon sequencing. The bacterial community composition in bulk particles remained remarkably consistent throughout time and space while large variations of individually picked particles were observed. This difference suggests that unique biogeochemical conditions within individual particles may offer distinct ecological niches for specialized bacterial taxa. Compared to surrounding seawater, particle samples were enriched in different size classes of globally significant N2-fixing cyanobacteria including Trichodesmium, symbionts of diatoms, and the unicellular cyanobacteria Crocosphaera and UCYN-A. The particles also contained nifH gene sequences of diverse non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs suggesting that particles could be loci for N2 fixation by heterotrophic bacteria. The results demonstrate that diverse diazotrophs were present on particles and that new N may thereby be directly exported from surface waters on sinking particles.

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