An assessment of nitrogen fixation as a source of nitrogen to the North Atlantic Ocean

Fredric Lipschultz, Nicholas J.P. Owens

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71 Citations (Scopus)


The role of nitrogen fixation in the nitrogen cycle of the North Atlantic basin was re-evaluated because recent estimates had indicated a far higher rate than previous reports. Examination of the available data on nitrogen fixation rates and abundance of Trichodesmium, the major nitrogen fixing organism, leads to the conclusion that rates might be as high as 1.09 x 1012 mol N yr-1. Several geochemical arguments are reviewed that each require a large nitrogen source that is consistent with nitrogen fixation, but the current data, although limited, do not support a sufficiently high rate. However, recent measurements of the fixation rates per colony are higher than the historical average, suggesting that improved methodology may require a re-evaluation through further measurements. The paucity of temporally resolved data on both rates and abundance for the major areal extent of the tropical Atlantic, where aeolian inputs of iron may foster high fixation rates, represents another major gap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-274
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 1996


  • budget
  • new production
  • nitrogen
  • nitrogen fixation
  • North Atlantic
  • Trichodesmium


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