Ocean fertilization by unusual microbes extends to frigid waters of Arctic Ocean

Nitrogen fixation by marine microbes had been thought limited to warm waters, but an unusual type of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria appears to be active globally

Microbes that provide natural fertilizer to the oceans by "fixing" nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form useable by other organisms were once thought to be limited to warm tropical and subtropical waters. Now, however, researchers have documented nitrogen fixation by an unusual type of cyanobacteria in the cold waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

"This goes against all the textbook assumptions about where nitrogen fixation occurs. All the mathematical models for nitrogen input to the oceans are constrained by temperature because of this underlying assumption," said Jonathan Zehr, professor of ocean sciences at UC Santa Cruz and senior author of a paper on the new findings published Monday, December 10, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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