Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/2440/130869
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Type: Journal article
Title: Temperate southern Australian coastal waters are characterised by surprisingly high rates of nitrogen fixation and diversity of diazotrophs
Author: Messer, L.F.
Brown, M.V.
Van Ruth, P.D.
Doubell, M.
Seymour, J.R.
Citation: PeerJ, 2021; 9:e10809-1-e10809-32
Publisher: PeerJ
Issue Date: 2021
ISSN: 2167-8359
2167-8359
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Lauren F. Messer, Mark V. Brown, Paul D. Van Ruth, Mark Doubell and Justin R. Seymour
Abstract: Biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation is one mechanism by which specific microorganisms (diazotrophs) can ameliorate nitrogen (N) limitation. Historically, rates of N2 fixation were believed to be limited outside of the low nutrient tropical and subtropical open ocean; however, emerging evidence suggests that N2 fixation is also a significant process within temperate coastal waters. Using a combination of amplicon sequencing, targeting the nitrogenase reductase gene (nifH ), quantitative nifH PCR, and 15N2 stable isotope tracer experiments, we investigated spatial patterns of diazotroph assemblage structure and N2 fixation rates within the temperate coastal waters of southern Australia during Austral autumn and summer. Relative to previous studies in open ocean environments, including tropical northern Australia, and tropical and temperate estuaries, our results indicate that high rates of N2 fixation (10—64 nmol L¯1 d¯1) can occur within the large inverse estuary Spencer Gulf, while comparatively low rates of N2 fixation (2 nmol L¯1 d¯1) were observed in the adjacent continental shelf waters. Across the dataset, low concentrations ofNO3/NO2 were significantly correlated with the highest N2 fixation rates, suggesting that N2 fixation could be an important source of new N in the region as dissolved inorganic N concentrations are typically limiting. Overall, the underlying diazotrophic community was dominated by nifH sequences from Cluster 1 unicellular cyanobacteria of the UCYN-A clade, as well as non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs related to Pseudomonas stutzeri, and Cluster 3 sulfate- reducing deltaproteobacteria. Diazotroph community composition was significantly influenced by salinity and SiO4 concentrations, reflecting the transition from UCYN-A- dominated assemblages in the continental shelf waters, to Cluster 3-dominated assem- blages in the hypersaline waters of the inverse estuary. Diverse, transitional diazotrophic communities, comprised of a mixture of UCYN-A and putative heterotrophic bacteria, were observed at the mouth and southern edge of Spencer Gulf, where the highest N2 fixation rates were observed. In contrast to observations in other environments, no seasonal patterns in N2 fixation rates and diazotroph community structure were apparent. Collectively, our findings are consistent with the emerging view that N2
Keywords: Nitrogen fixation; inverse estuary; diazotroph dynamics; microbial ecology; temperate coastal waters
Rights: © 2021 Messer et al. Distributed under Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 OPEN ACCESS
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.10809
Grant ID: http://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/DP120102764
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