[Science Advances] Nutrient regulation of biological nitrogen fixation across the tropical western North Pacific
Abstract: Nitrogen fixation is critical for the biological productivity of the ocean, but clear mechanistic controls on this process remain elusive. Here, we investigate the abundance, activity, and drivers of nitrogen-fixing diazotrophs across the tropical western North Pacific. We find a basin-scale coherence of diazotroph abundances and N fixation rates with the supply ratio of iron:nitrogen to the upper ocean. Across a threshold of increasing supply ratios, the abundance of nifH genes and N fixation rates increased, phosphate concentrations decreased, and bioassay experiments demonstrated evidence for N fixation switching from iron to phosphate limitation. In the northern South China Sea, supply ratios were hypothesized to fall around this critical threshold and bioassay experiments suggested colimitation by both iron and phosphate. Our results provide evidence for iron:nitrogen supply ratios being the most important factor in regulating the distribution of N fixation across the tropical ocean.