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More than 1: Long-reigning microbe controlling ocean nitrogen shares the throne
Date:2/25/2010

analogous to that of non-nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, which are widespread."

The research was also supported by NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences and an NSF Science and Technology Center called C-MORE, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.

Trichodesmium, as well as UCYN-A and Crocosphaera watsonii, "fix" nitrogen in the seas, taking nitrogen gas from the air we breathe and converting it to chemical forms that other microorganisms can use to power their cellular machinery.

Nitrogen-fixing microorganisms are the key to the productivity of the oceans. Growth of microbes at the base of the food chain is dependent on nutrients like nitrogen, in the same way that agriculture on land depends on such nutrients.

Microorganisms that fix nitrogen play a central role, says Zehr, in the "vertical downward flux of organic matter to the deep ocean."

Life forms that are among our planet's smallest, he says, play a very large role. Through a series of steps in the nitrogen fixation process, they sequester carbon from the atmosphere, important in controlling Earth's climate.


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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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