Articles | Volume 7, issue 10
15 Oct 2010
 | 15 Oct 2010

Latitudinal distribution of Trichodesmium spp. and N2 fixation in the Atlantic Ocean

A. Fernández, B. Mouriño-Carballido, A. Bode, M. Varela, and E. Marañón

Abstract. We have determined the latitudinal distribution of Trichodesmium spp. abundance and community N2 fixation in the Atlantic Ocean along a meridional transect from ca. 30° N to 30° S in November–December 2007 and April–May 2008. The observations from both cruises were highly consistent in terms of absolute magnitude and latitudinal distribution, showing a strong association between Trichodesmium abundance and community N2 fixation. The highest Trichodesmium abundances (mean = 220 trichomes L−1,) and community N2 fixation rates (mean = 60 μmol m−2 d−1) occurred in the Equatorial region between 5° S–15° N. In the South Atlantic gyre, Trichodesmium abundance was very low (ca. 1 trichome L−1) but N2 fixation was always measurable, averaging 3 and 10 μmol m2 d−1 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. We suggest that N2 fixation in the South Atlantic was sustained by other, presumably unicellular, diazotrophs. Comparing these distributions with the geographical pattern in atmospheric dust deposition points to iron supply as the main factor determining the large scale latitudinal variability of Trichodesmium spp. abundance and N2 fixation in the Atlantic Ocean. We observed a marked South to North decrease in surface phosphate concentration, which argues against a role for phosphorus availability in controlling the large scale distribution of N2 fixation. Scaling up from all our measurements (42 stations) results in conservative estimates for total N2 fixation of ∼6 TgN yr−1 in the North Atlantic (0–40° N) and ~1.2 TgN yr−1 in the South Atlantic (0–40° S).

Final-revised paper