The Angola Gyre is a hotspot of dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic Ocean

Tanya Marshall, Julie Granger, Karen L. Casciotti, Kirstin Dähnke, Kay Christian Emeis, Dario Marconi, Matthew R. McIlvin, Abigail E. Noble, Mak A. Saito, Daniel M. Sigman, Sarah E. Fawcett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Biological dinitrogen fixation is the major source of new nitrogen to marine systems and thus essential to the ocean’s biological pump. Constraining the distribution and global rate of dinitrogen fixation has proven challenging owing largely to uncertainty surrounding the controls thereon. Existing South Atlantic dinitrogen fixation rate estimates vary five-fold, with models attributing most dinitrogen fixation to the western basin. From hydrographic properties and nitrate isotope ratios, we show that the Angola Gyre in the eastern tropical South Atlantic supports the fixation of 1.4–5.4 Tg N.a−1, 28-108% of the existing (highly uncertain) estimates for the basin. Our observations contradict model diagnoses, revealing a substantial input of newly-fixed nitrogen to the tropical eastern basin and no dinitrogen fixation west of 7.5˚W. We propose that dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic occurs in hotspots controlled by the overlapping biogeography of excess phosphorus relative to nitrogen and bioavailable iron from margin sediments. Similar conditions may promote dinitrogen fixation in analogous ocean regions. Our analysis suggests that local iron availability causes the phosphorus-driven coupling of oceanic dinitrogen fixation to nitrogen loss to vary on a regional basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'The Angola Gyre is a hotspot of dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic Ocean'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this