Diazotroph Diversity in the Sea Ice, Melt Ponds, and Surface Waters of the Eurasian Basin of the Central Arctic Ocean.
ABSTRACT: The Eurasian basin of the Central Arctic Ocean is nitrogen limited, but little is known about the presence and role of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Recent studies have indicated the occurrence of diazotrophs in Arctic coastal waters potentially of riverine origin. Here, we investigated the presence of diazotrophs in ice and surface waters of the Central Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2012. We identified diverse communities of putative diazotrophs through targeted analysis of the nifH gene, which encodes the iron protein of the nitrogenase enzyme. We amplified 529 nifH sequences from 26 samples of Arctic melt ponds, sea ice and surface waters. These sequences resolved into 43 clusters at 92% amino acid sequence identity, most of which were non-cyanobacterial phylotypes from sea ice and water samples. One cyanobacterial phylotype related to Nodularia sp. was retrieved from sea ice, suggesting that this important functional group is rare in the Central Arctic Ocean. The diazotrophic community in sea-ice environments appear distinct from other cold-adapted diazotrophic communities, such as those present in the coastal Canadian Arctic, the Arctic tundra and glacial Antarctic lakes. Molecular fingerprinting of nifH and the intergenic spacer region of the rRNA operon revealed differences between the communities from river-influenced Laptev Sea waters and those from ice-related environments pointing toward a marine origin for sea-ice diazotrophs. Our results provide the first record of diazotrophs in the Central Arctic and suggest that microbial nitrogen fixation may occur north of 77°N. To assess the significance of nitrogen fixation for the nitrogen budget of the Arctic Ocean and to identify the active nitrogen fixers, further biogeochemical and molecular biological studies are needed.
Project description:Diazotrophic microorganisms regulate marine productivity by alleviating nitrogen limitation. However, we know little about the identity and activity of diazotrophs in deep-sea sediments, a habitat covering nearly two-thirds of the planet. Here, we identify candidate diazotrophs from Pacific Ocean sediments collected at 2893?m water depth using 15N-DNA stable isotope probing and a novel pipeline for nifH sequence analysis. Together, these approaches detect an unexpectedly diverse assemblage of active diazotrophs, including members of the Acidobacteria, Firmicutes, Nitrospirae, Gammaproteobacteria, and Deltaproteobacteria. Deltaproteobacteria, predominately members of the Desulfobacterales and Desulfuromonadales, are the most abundant diazotrophs detected, and display the most microdiversity of associated nifH sequences. Some of the detected lineages, including those within the Acidobacteria, have not previously been shown to fix nitrogen. The diazotrophs appear catabolically diverse, with the potential for using oxygen, nitrogen, iron, sulfur, and carbon as terminal electron acceptors. Therefore, benthic diazotrophy may persist throughout a range of geochemical conditions and provide a stable source of fixed nitrogen over geologic timescales. Our results suggest that nitrogen-fixing communities in deep-sea sediments are phylogenetically and catabolically diverse, and open a new line of inquiry into the ecology and biogeochemical impacts of deep-sea microorganisms.
Project description:Ecological evidence suggests that heterotrophic diazotrophs fueled by organic carbon respiration in sediments play an important role in marine nitrogen fixation. However, fundamental knowledge about the identities, abundance, diversity, biogeography, and controlling environmental factors of nitrogen-fixing communities in open ocean sediments is still elusive. Surprisingly, little is known also about nitrogen-fixing communities in sediments of the more research-accessible marginal seas. Here we report on an investigation of the environmental geochemistry and putative diazotrophic microbiota in the sediments of Bohai Sea, an eutrophic marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean. Diverse and abundant nifH gene sequences were identified and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) were found to be the dominant putative nitrogen-fixing microbes. Community statistical analyses suggested bottom water temperature, bottom water chlorophyll a content (or the covarying turbidity) and sediment porewater Eh (or the covarying pH) as the most significant environmental factors controlling the structure and spatial distribution of the putative diazotrophic communities, while sediment Hg content, sulfide content, and porewater [Formula: see text]-Si content were identified as the key environmental factors correlated positively with the nifH gene abundance in Bohai Sea sediments. Comparative analyses between the Bohai Sea and the northern South China Sea (nSCS) identified a significant composition difference of the putative diazotrophic communities in sediments between the shallow-water (estuarine and nearshore) and deep-water (offshore and deep-sea) environments, and sediment porewater dissolved oxygen content, water depth and in situ temperature as the key environmental factors tentatively controlling the species composition, community structure, and spatial distribution of the marginal sea sediment nifH-harboring microbiota. This confirms the ecophysiological specialization and niche differentiation between the shallow-water and deep-water sediment diazotrophic communities and suggests that the in situ physical and geochemical conditions play a more important role than geographical contiguity in determining the community similarity of the diazotrophic microbiota in marginal sea sediments.
Project description:Nitrogen fixation, the biological reduction of dinitrogen gas (N2) to ammonium (NH4(+)), is quantitatively the most important external source of new nitrogen (N) to the open ocean. Classically, the ecological niche of oceanic N2 fixers (diazotrophs) is ascribed to tropical oligotrophic surface waters, often depleted in fixed N, with a diazotrophic community dominated by cyanobacteria. Although this applies for large areas of the ocean, biogeochemical models and phylogenetic studies suggest that the oceanic diazotrophic niche may be much broader than previously considered, resulting in major implications for the global N-budget. Here, we report on the composition, distribution and abundance of nifH, the functional gene marker for N2 fixation. Our results show the presence of eight clades of diazotrophs in the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) off Peru. Although proteobacterial clades dominated overall, two clusters affiliated to spirochaeta and archaea were identified. N2 fixation was detected within OMZ waters and was stimulated by the addition of organic carbon sources supporting the view that non-phototrophic diazotrophs were actively fixing dinitrogen. The observed co-occurrence of key functional genes for N2 fixation, nitrification, anammox and denitrification suggests that a close spatial coupling of N-input and N-loss processes exists in the OMZ off Peru. The wide distribution of diazotrophs throughout the water column adds to the emerging view that the habitat of marine diazotrophs can be extended to low oxygen/high nitrate areas. Furthermore, our statistical analysis suggests that NO2(-) and PO4(3-) are the major factors affecting diazotrophic distribution throughout the OMZ. In view of the predicted increase in ocean deoxygenation resulting from global warming, our findings indicate that the importance of OMZs as niches for N2 fixation may increase in the future.
Project description:The Baltic Sea receives large nitrogen inputs by diazotrophic (N2-fixing) heterocystous cyanobacteria but the significance of heterotrophic N2 fixation has not been studied. Here, the diversity, abundance and transcription of the nifH fragment of the nitrogenase enzyme in two basins of the Baltic Sea proper was examined. N2 fixation was measured at the surface (5?m) and in anoxic water (200?m). Vertical sampling profiles of >10 and <10??m size fractions were collected in 2007, 2008 and 2011 at the Gotland Deep and in 2011 in the Bornholm Basin. Both of these stations are characterized by permanently anoxic bottom water. The 454-pyrosequencing nifH analysis revealed a diverse assemblage of nifH genes related to alpha-, beta- and gammaproteobacteria (nifH cluster I) and anaerobic bacteria (nifH cluster III) at and below the chemocline. Abundances of genes and transcripts of seven diazotrophic phylotypes were investigated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction revealing abundances of heterotrophic nifH phylotypes of up to 2.1 × 10(7) nifH copies?l(-1). Abundant nifH transcripts (up to 3.2 × 10(4) transcripts?l(-1)) within nifH cluster III and co-occurring N2 fixation (0.44±0.26?nmol?l(-1)?day(-1)) in deep water suggests that heterotrophic diazotrophs are fixing N2 in anoxic ammonium-rich waters. Our results reveal that N2 fixation in the Baltic Sea is not limited to illuminated N-deplete surface waters and suggest that N2 fixation could also be of importance in other suboxic regions of the world's oceans.
Project description:The coral holobiont often resides in oligotrophic waters; both coral cells and their symbiotic dinoflagellates possess ammonium assimilation enzymes and potentially benefit from the nitrogen fixation of coral-associated diazotrophs. However, the seasonal dynamics of coral-associated diazotrophs are not well characterized. Here, the seasonal variations of diazotrophic communities associated with three corals, Galaxea astreata, Pavona decussata, and Porites lutea, were studied using nifH gene amplicon pyrosequencing techniques. Our results revealed a great diversity of coral-associated diazotrophs. nifH sequences related to Alphaproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, and Gammaproteobacteria were ubiquitous and dominant in all corals in two seasons. In contrast with the coral P. decussata, both G. astreata and P. lutea showed significant seasonal changes in the diazotrophic communities and nifH gene abundance. Variable diazotroph groups accounted for a range from 11 to 49% within individual coral samples. Most of the variable diazotrophic groups from P. decussata were species-specific, however, the majority of overlapping variable groups in G. astreata and P. lutea showed the same seasonal variation characteristics. Rhodopseudomonas palustris- and Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus-affiliated sequences were relatively abundant in the summer, whereas a nifH sequence related to Halorhodospira halophila was relatively abundant in spring G. astreata and P. lutea. The seasonal variations of all diazotrophic communities were significantly correlated with the seasonal shifts of ammonium and nitrate, suggesting that diazotrophs play an important role in the nitrogen cycle of the coral holobiont.
Project description:Sea ice is an important transport vehicle for gaseous, dissolved and particulate matter in the Arctic Ocean. Due to the recently observed acceleration in sea ice drift, it has been assumed that more matter is advected by the Transpolar Drift from shallow shelf waters to the central Arctic Ocean and beyond. However, this study provides first evidence that intensified melt in the marginal zones of the Arctic Ocean interrupts the transarctic conveyor belt and has led to a reduction of the survival rates of sea ice exported from the shallow Siberian shelves (-15% per decade). As a consequence, less and less ice formed in shallow water areas (<30 m) has reached Fram Strait (-17% per decade), and more ice and ice-rafted material is released in the northern Laptev Sea and central Arctic Ocean. Decreasing survival rates of first-year ice are visible all along the Russian shelves, but significant only in the Kara Sea, East Siberian Sea and western Laptev Sea. Identified changes affect biogeochemical fluxes and ecological processes in the central Arctic: A reduced long-range transport of sea ice alters transport and redistribution of climate relevant gases, and increases accumulation of sediments and contaminates in the central Arctic Ocean, with consequences for primary production, and the biodiversity of the Arctic Ocean.
Project description:Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) was investigated above and within the oxygen-depleted waters of the oxygen-minimum zone of the Eastern Tropical North Pacific Ocean. BNF rates were estimated using an isotope tracer method that overcame the uncertainty of the conventional bubble method by directly measuring the tracer enrichment during the incubations. Highest rates of BNF (~4?nM?day-1) occurred in coastal surface waters and lowest detectable rates (~0.2?nM?day-1) were found in the anoxic region of offshore stations. BNF was not detectable in most samples from oxygen-depleted waters. The composition of the N2-fixing assemblage was investigated by sequencing of nifH genes. The diazotrophic assemblage in surface waters contained mainly Proteobacterial sequences (Cluster I nifH), while both Proteobacterial sequences and sequences with high identities to those of anaerobic microbes characterized as Clusters III and IV type nifH sequences were found in the anoxic waters. Our results indicate modest input of N through BNF in oxygen-depleted zones mainly due to the activity of proteobacterial diazotrophs.
Project description:Within the past decade, an alarm was raised about microplastics in the remote and seemingly pristine Arctic Ocean. To gain further insight about the issue, microplastic abundance, distribution and composition in sea ice cores (n?=?25) and waters underlying ice floes (n?=?22) were assessed in the Arctic Central Basin (ACB). Potential microplastics were visually isolated and subsequently analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy. Microplastic abundance in surface waters underlying ice floes (0-18 particles m-3) were orders of magnitude lower than microplastic concentrations in sea ice cores (2-17 particles L-1). No consistent pattern was apparent in the vertical distribution of microplastics within sea ice cores. Backward drift trajectories estimated that cores possibly originated from the Siberian shelves, western Arctic and central Arctic. Knowledge about microplastics in environmental compartments of the Arctic Ocean is important in assessing the potential threats posed by microplastics to polar organisms.
Project description:The Arctic Ocean is the smallest ocean on Earth, yet estimated to play a substantial role as a global carbon sink. As climate change is rapidly changing fundamental components of the Arctic, it is of local and global importance to understand and predict consequences for its carbon dynamics. Primary production in the Arctic Ocean is often nitrogen-limited, and this is predicted to increase in some regions. It is therefore of critical interest that biological nitrogen fixation, a process where some bacteria and archaea termed diazotrophs convert nitrogen gas to bioavailable ammonia, has now been detected in the Arctic Ocean. Several studies report diverse and active diazotrophs on various temporal and spatial scales across the Arctic Ocean. Their ecology and biogeochemical impact remain poorly known, and nitrogen fixation is so far absent from models of primary production in the Arctic Ocean. The composition of the diazotroph community appears distinct from other oceans – challenging paradigms of function and regulation of nitrogen fixation. There is evidence of both symbiotic cyanobacterial nitrogen fixation and heterotrophic diazotrophy, but large regions are not yet sampled, and the sparse quantitative data hamper conclusive insights. Hence, it remains to be determined to what extent nitrogen fixation represents a hitherto overlooked source of new nitrogen to consider when predicting future productivity of the Arctic Ocean. Here, we discuss current knowledge on diazotroph distribution, composition, and activity in pelagic and sea ice-associated environments of the Arctic Ocean. Based on this, we identify gaps and outline pertinent research questions in the context of a climate change-influenced Arctic Ocean – with the aim of guiding and encouraging future research on nitrogen fixation in this region.
Project description:Microbial sulfur and carbon cycles in ecosystems driven by chemoautotrophy-present at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, cold seeps and sulfidic caves-have been studied to some extent, yet little is known about nitrogen fixation in these systems. Using a comprehensive approach comprising of (15)N2 isotope labeling, acetylene reduction assay and nitrogenase gene expression analyses, we investigated nitrogen fixation in the sulfide-rich, chemoautotrophy-based Frasassi cave ecosystem (Italy). Nitrogen fixation was examined in three different microbial niches within the cave waters: (1) symbiotic bacterial community of Niphargus amphipods, (2) Beggiatoa-dominated biofilms, which occur at the sulfide-oxygen interface, and (3) sulfidic sediment. We found evidence for nitrogen fixation in all the three niches, and the nitrogenase gene (homologs of nifH) expression data clearly show niche differentiation of diazotrophic Proteobacteria within the water streams. The nifH transcript originated from the symbiotic community of Niphargus amphipods might belong to the Thiothrix ectosymbionts. Two abundantly expressed nifH genes in the Beggiatoa-dominated biofilms are closely related to those from Beggiatoa- and Desulfovibrio-related bacteria. These two diazotrophs were consistently found in Beggiatoa-dominated biofilms collected at various time points, thus illustrating species-specific associations of the diazotrophs in biofilm formation, and micron-scale niche partitioning of sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-reducing bacteria driven by steep redox gradients within the biofilm. Finally, putative heterotrophs (Geobacter, Azoarcus and Desulfovibrio related) were the active diazotrophs in the sulfidic sediment. Our study is the first to shed light on nitrogen fixation in permanently dark caves and suggests that diazotrophy may be widespread in chemosynthetic communities.