The organisms oxidize the nitrogen compound nitrite to “fix” inorganic carbon dioxide
A mysterious group of microbes may be controlling the fate of carbon in the dark depths of the world’s oceans.
Nitrospinae bacteria, which use the nitrogen compound nitrite to “fix” inorganic carbon dioxide into sugars and other compounds for food and reproduction, are responsible for 15 to 45 percent of such carbon fixation in the western North Atlantic Ocean, researchers report in the Nov. 24 Science. If these microbes are present in similar abundances around the world — and some data suggest that the bacteria are — those rates may be global, the team adds.
The total amount of carbon that Nitrospinae fix is small when compared with carbon fixation on land by organisms such as plants or in the sunlit part of the ocean, says Maria Pachiadaki, a microbial ecologist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine, who is lead author on the new