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Unicellular organisms contribute more nitrogen to ocean that reported earlier

tion for some time."

Carbon dioxide is one of the naturally occurring gases that traps energy from the sun and helps maintain hospitable temperatures on Earth, creating the "greenhouse effect." But studies indicate that greenhouse gases that form from vehicle and industrial emissions are enhancing the greenhouse effect and contributing to global climate warming.

The nitrogen-fixation rates reported in Montoya's study are conservative figures, according to the paper. First, any errors in the researchers' experiment will tend to produce underestimates of the true rate, Montoya said. Second, they interpreted the data based on the assumption that unicells are only fixing nitrogen for 12 hours a day a common pattern for other nitrogen-fixing organisms. But some of their data indicate that unicells may actually fix nitrogen around the clock.

"These measurements have important geochemical implications, so at this early stage, I would rather undersell than oversell the numbers," Montoya added. ". We may be underestimating the true rate of nitrogen fixation by a factor of two."

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Montoya first began this research five years ago with colleague Jonathan Zehr, a professor of molecular biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and one of the authors on this Nature paper. The other authors are Georgia Tech graduate student Carolyn Holl, University of Hawaii graduate student Andrew Hansen, University of Texas at Austin Associate Professor of Marine Science Tracy Villareal and University of Southern California Professor of Marine Science Douglas Capone.

The research team's findings resulting from several month-long research cruises -- have prompted a follow-up study recently funded by NSF. The scientists will continue to survey the Pacific Ocean, as well as the North Atlantic and the South Pacific oceans in two more research cruises in 2006 and 2007. In addition to colle
'"/>

Contact: Jane Sanders
jane.sanders@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-2214
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
25-Aug-2004


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