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Investigating the microbial ecology of coastal hotspots of marine nitrogen fixation in the western North Atlantic

  • Wang, Seaver1
  • Tang, Weiyi2
  • Delage, Erwan3
  • Gifford, Scott4
  • Whitby, Hannah5
  • González, Aridane G.6, 7
  • Eveillard, Damien3
  • Planquette, Hélène7
  • Cassar, Nicolas1, 7
  • 1 Duke University, Grainger Environment Hall, 9 Circuit Drive, Durham, NC, 27708, USA , Durham (United States)
  • 2 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA , Princeton (United States)
  • 3 Université de Nantes, Nantes, 44000, France , Nantes (France)
  • 4 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA , Chapel Hill (United States)
  • 5 University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK , Liverpool (United Kingdom)
  • 6 Instituto de Oceanografía y Cambio Global (IOCAG), Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, ULPGC, Las Palmas, Spain , Las Palmas (Spain)
  • 7 Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer (IUEM), Technopôle Brest-Iroise, 13 Plouzané, Locmaria-Plouzané, 29280, France , Locmaria-Plouzané (France)
Published Article
Scientific Reports
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Mar 09, 2021
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-84969-1
Springer Nature


Variation in the microbial cycling of nutrients and carbon in the ocean is an emergent property of complex planktonic communities. While recent findings have considerably expanded our understanding of the diversity and distribution of nitrogen (N2) fixing marine diazotrophs, knowledge gaps remain regarding ecological interactions between diazotrophs and other community members. Using quantitative 16S and 18S V4 rDNA amplicon sequencing, we surveyed eukaryotic and prokaryotic microbial communities from samples collected in August 2016 and 2017 across the Western North Atlantic. Leveraging and significantly expanding an earlier published 2015 molecular dataset, we examined microbial community structure and ecological co-occurrence relationships associated with intense hotspots of N2 fixation previously reported at sites off the Southern New England Shelf and Mid-Atlantic Bight. Overall, we observed a negative relationship between eukaryotic diversity and both N2 fixation and net community production (NCP). Maximum N2 fixation rates occurred at sites with high abundances of mixotrophic stramenopiles, notably Chrysophyceae. Network analysis revealed such stramenopiles to be keystone taxa alongside the haptophyte diazotroph host Braarudosphaera bigelowii and chlorophytes. Our findings highlight an intriguing relationship between marine stramenopiles and high N2 fixation coastal sites.

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