Elevated CO2 enhances nitrogen fixation and growth in the marine cyanobacterium Trichodesmium

O. Levitan, G. Rosenberg, I. Setlik, E. Setlikova, J. Grigel, J. Klepetar, O. Prasil, Ilana Berman-Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increases in atmospheric pCO2 over the last century are accompanied by higher concentrations of CO2(aq) in the surface oceans. This acidification of the surface ocean is expected to influence aquatic primary productivity and may also affect cyanobacterial nitrogen (N)-fixers (diazotrophs). No data is currently available showing the response of diazotrophs to enhanced oceanic CO2(aq). We examined the influence of pCO2 [preindustrial ∼250 ppmv (low), ambient ∼400, future ∼900 ppmv (high)] on the photosynthesis, N fixation, and growth of Trichodesmium IMS101. Trichodesmium spp. is a bloom-forming cyanobacterium contributing substantial inputs of 'new N'to the oligotrophic subtropical and tropical oceans. High pCO2 enhanced N fixation, C:N ratios, filament length, and biomass of Trichodesmium in comparison with both ambient and low pCO2 cultures. Photosynthesis and respiration did not change significantly between the treatments. We suggest that enhanced N fixation and growth in the high pCO2 cultures occurs due to reallocation of energy and resources from carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCM) required under low and ambient pCO2. Thus, in oceanic regions, where light and nutrients such as P and Fe are not limiting, we expect the projected concentrations of CO2 to increase N fixation and growth of Trichodesmium. Other diazotrophs may be similarly affected, thereby enhancing inputs of new N and increasing primary productivity in the oceans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-538
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • C:N
  • CCM
  • CO
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Diazotrophs
  • N fixation
  • Ocean pH
  • Photosynthesis
  • Trichodesmium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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