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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 424:39-52 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08976

Distribution of diazotrophic microorganisms and nifH gene expression in the Mekong River plume during intermonsoon

Deniz Bombar1,4,*, Pia H. Moisander2, Joachim W. Dippner1, Rachel A. Foster2,5, Maren Voss1, Birte Karfeld3, Jonathan P. Zehr2

1Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research, Department of Biological Oceanography, 18119 Warnemuende, Germany
2Ocean Sciences Department, University of California Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
3Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
4Present address: Ocean Sciences Department, University of California Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
5Present address:
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstr. 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany

ABSTRACT: N2 fixation by marine pelagic prokaryotes plays a critical role in supplying new N to the ocean, and there is growing evidence that oceanic N2 fixation is generally enhanced in tropical river plumes, where N2 fixers (diazotrophs) benefit from riverine phosphorus and/or iron. Here we used nifH gene quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) and reverse transcription (RT) QPCR to investigate the horizontal distribution and activity of 9 diazotroph phylotypes in the Mekong River plume, South China Sea (SCS), in April 2007 (intermonsoon, lowest annual discharge). The nifH gene diversity was investigated by cloning and sequencing. Hydrodynamic modeling of the surface water advection revealed that the same water masses were sampled during the entire study, and helped to elucidate the physical forcing on diazotroph abundances and distributions. According to our estimates of nifH abundances and expression, the high N2 fixation rates detected in the Mekong plume can primarily be attributed to Trichodesmium spp. and the symbiotic diatom-diazotroph associations (DDAs) RhizosoleniaRichelia and HemiaulusRichelia. NifH phylotypes from unicellular cyanobacterial groups B and C and a gammaproteobacterial group (24774A11) were exclusively detected and expressed at oceanic stations. Clone libraries of nifH were dominated by Trichodesmium spp. but also included proteobacterial- and cluster III-like nifH sequences, including new lineages, possibly representing other active diazotrophs in the Mekong plume and SCS offshore waters. This study extends the known distribution of quantitatively important oceanic diazotrophs, and shows that the Mekong River plume hosts a diverse diazotroph community, of which particularly Trichodesmium spp. and DDAs fix N2 at high rates.


KEY WORDS: Nitrogen fixation · Phytoplankton ecology · Trichodesmium · Diatoms · Symbiosis · South China Sea · River discharge


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Cite this article as: Bombar D, Moisander PH, Dippner JW, Foster RA, Voss M, Karfeld B, Zehr JP (2011) Distribution of diazotrophic microorganisms and nifH gene expression in the Mekong River plume during intermonsoon. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 424:39-52. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08976

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