The daily integral of nitrogen fixation by planktonic cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea

L.J. Stal, A.E. Walsby

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Measurements were made of the rates of nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction) by cyanobacteria collected from the Baltic Sea at 2-h intervals, over a period of 24 h, and incubated under natural light. By relating the chlorophyll- specific rate of N-2 fixation (P-N) to the mean photon irradiance (I) at different periods, a P-N/I curve was constructed. A mathematical description of this relationship was used in the calculation of rates of N-2 fixation at different depths and times of day from continuous measurements of surface irradiance and light attenuation. By relating these calculations to the vertical distribution of chlorophyll due to Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, an estimate of the daily integral of N-2 fixation by the population of this cyanobacterium was obtained: it varied from 0.39 to 0.71 mmol m(-2) with a mean value of 0.53 mmol m(-2) over 9 d. Comparisons with similar calculations of the daily integral of photosynthesis over the same period indicated the atomic ratio of N/C fixed is about 0.22, not very different from the N/C ratio expected for the elemental composition of these cyanobacteria. It is demonstrated that when buoyant gas-vacuolate colonies float up during calm periods the increased irradiance that they experience supports an increased rate of N-2 fixation. This increase is less than that seen for carbon fixation because photosynthesis is negated by respiration at low irradiances and is less inhibited at high irradiances. [KEYWORDS: Nitrogen fixation; phytoplankton buoyancy; gas vesicles; cyanobacteria; Aphanizomenon sp.; Baltic Sea Numerical-model; lake valencia; gas vesicles; phytoplankton; communities; venezuela; buoyancy; surface; mats]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)665-671
    JournalNew Phytologist
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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