Research ArticleGEOCHEMISTRY

Carbon recycling efficiency and phosphate turnover by marine nitrifying archaea

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Science Advances  08 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 19, eaba1799
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1799


Thaumarchaeotal nitrifiers are among the most abundant organisms in the ocean, but still unknown is the carbon (C) yield from nitrification and the coupling of these fluxes to phosphorus (P) turnover and release of metabolites from the cell. Using a dual radiotracer approach, we found that Nitrosopumilus maritimus fixed roughly 0.3 mol C, assimilated 2 mmol P, and released ca. 10−2 mol C and 10−5 mol P as dissolved organics (DOC and DOP) per mole ammonia respired. Phosphate turnover may influence assimilation fluxes by nitrifiers in the euphotic zone, which parallel those of the dark ocean. Collectively, marine nitrifiers assimilate up to 2 Pg C year−1 and 0.05 Pg P year−1 and thereby recycle roughly 5% of mineralized C and P into marine biomass. Release of roughly 50 Tg DOC and 0.2 Tg DOP by thaumarchaea each year represents a small but fresh input of reduced substrates throughout the ocean.

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