N2 fixation rates were measured in the 0-1000ĝ€¯m layer at 13 stations located in the open western and central Mediterranean Sea (MS) during the PEACETIME cruise (late spring 2017). While the spatial variability in N2 fixation was not related to Fe, P nor N stocks, the surface composition of the diazotrophic community indicated a strong longitudinal gradient increasing eastward for the relative abundance of non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs (NCDs) (mainly 3-Proteobacteria) and conversely decreasing eastward for photo-heterotrophic group A (UCYN-A) (mainly UCYN-A1 and UCYN-A3), as did N2 fixation rates. UCYN-A4 and UCYN-A3 were identified for the first time in the MS. The westernmost station influenced by Atlantic waters and characterized by highest stocks of N and P displayed a patchy distribution of diazotrophic activity with an exceptionally high rate in the euphotic layer of 72.1ĝ€¯nmolNL-1d-1, which could support up to 19ĝ€¯% of primary production. At this station at 1ĝ€¯%PAR (photosynthetically available radiation) depth, UCYN-A4 represented up to 94ĝ€¯% of the diazotrophic community. These in situ observations of greater relative abundance of UCYN-A at stations with higher nutrient concentrations and dominance of NCDs at more oligotrophic stations suggest that nutrient conditions-even in the nanomolar range-may determine the composition of diazotrophic communities and in turn N2 fixation rates. The impact of Saharan dust deposition on N2 fixation and diazotrophic communities was also investigated, under present and future projected conditions of temperature and pH during short-Term (3-4ĝ€¯d) experiments at three stations. New nutrients from simulated dust deposition triggered a significant stimulation of N2 fixation (from 41ĝ€¯% to 565ĝ€¯%). The strongest increase in N2 fixation was observed at the stations dominated by NCDs and did not lead on this short timescale to changes in the diazotrophic community composition. Under projected future conditions, N2 fixation was either increased or unchanged; in that later case this was probably due to a too-low nutrient bioavailability or an increased grazing pressure. The future warming and acidification likely benefited NCDs (Pseudomonas) and UCYN-A2, while disadvantaged UCYN-A3 without knowing which effect (alone or in combination) is the driver, especially since we do not know the temperature optima of these species not yet cultivated as well as the effect of acidification.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Earth-Surface Processes