In-depth characterization of diazotroph activity across the western tropical South Pacific hotspot of N2 fixation (OUTPACE cruise)

Sophie Bonnet, Mathieu Caffin, Hugo Berthelot, Olivier Grosso, Mar Benavides, Sandra Helias-Nunige, Cécile Guieu, Marcus Stenegren, Rachel Ann Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we report N2 fixation rates from a ∼4000 km transect in the western and central tropical South Pacific, a particularly undersampled region in the world ocean. Water samples were collected in the euphotic layer along a west to east transect from 160° E to 160°W that covered contrasting trophic regimes, from oligotrophy in the Melanesian archipelago (MA) waters to ultraoligotrophy in the South Pacific Gyre (GY) waters. N2 fixation was detected at all 17 sampled stations with an average depth-integrated rate of 631±286 μmolNm-2 d-1 (range 196-1153 μmolNm-2 d-1) in MA waters and of 85±79 μmolNm-2 d-1 (range 18-172 μmolNm-2 d-1) in GY waters. Two cyanobacteria, the larger colonial filamentous Trichodesmium and the smaller UCYN-B, dominated the enumerated diazotroph community (>80 %) and gene expression of the nifH gene (cDNA>105 nifH copies L-1) in MA waters. Single-cell isotopic analyses performed by nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) at selected stations revealed that Trichodesmium was always the major contributor to N2 fixation in MA waters, accounting for 47.1-83.8% of bulk N2 fixation. The most plausible environmental factors explaining such exceptionally high rates of N2 fixation in MA waters are discussed in detail, emphasizing the role of macro-and micro-nutrient (e.g., iron) availability, seawater temperature and currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4215-4232
Number of pages18
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 12 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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