Fulweiler, R.W. (2009). Fantastic Fixers. Science (Wash.) 326(5951): 377-378
In: Science (Washington). American Association for the Advancement of Science: New York, N.Y. ISSN 0036-8075, more
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Current global ocean nitrogen budgets do not balance, which suggests that existing models miss or underestimate some contributions to oceanic nitrogen fixation (the conversion of N2 gas to a biologically usable form of nitrogen) (1, 2). However, recent studies have found higher rates of nitrogen fixation in coastal sediments (3–5) and more abundant nitrogen-fixing organisms in the open ocean (6) than previously observed. This exciting trend continues with the report on page 422 of this issue by Dekas et al. (7), who describe a community of archaea and bacteria in deep-sea "cold seep" sediments that can fix nitrogen. The study reveals direct evidence for a previously unknown environment for nitrogen fixation that can deliver biologically usable nitrogen to deep-sea sediments, and provides a link between the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles.