Novel multi‐scale synthesis of nitrogen fixation rates and drivers across the terrestrial biosphere

Science Center Objects

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is a critical biogeochemical process that converts inert atmospheric N2 gas into biologically usable forms of the essential nutrient nitrogen. A variety of free-living and symbiotic organisms carry out BNF, and in most regions worldwide, BNF is the largest source of nitrogen that fuels terrestrial ecosystems. As a result, BNF has far reaching effects on ecosys...

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is a critical biogeochemical process that converts inert atmospheric N2 gas into biologically usable forms of the essential nutrient nitrogen. A variety of free-living and symbiotic organisms carry out BNF, and in most regions worldwide, BNF is the largest source of nitrogen that fuels terrestrial ecosystems. As a result, BNF has far reaching effects on ecosystem properties (water quality, carbon storage), sustainability (plant growth, soil fertility), and the global climate system. Despite this cross-cutting importance, existing syntheses of BNF have major gaps, with particular challenges in upscaling local measurements across large areas.  These gaps, and a corresponding lack of information on environmental controls of BNF among taxa and across scales, create significant uncertainty in ongoing assessments and in model projections of baseline patterns and human-alteration of biogeochemical cycles on Earth.

This Powell Center project will: (1) synthesize rates of BNF for organisms in the major ecological niches (trees, shrubs, herbs, lichens, cyanobacteria, mosses, liverworts, and free-living heterotrophic bacteria) across all terrestrial biomes globally, including agricultural systems; (2) use novel approaches to upscale symbiotic BNF from plants and lichens, to produce spatially-resolved maps for the U.S. and North America; and (3) develop prognostic tools for evaluating environmental controls of BNF in different ecological niches across terrestrial biomes for mapping, management, and modeling. This information will serve as a benchmark for understanding patterns and controls of terrestrial BNF, and will greatly improve our ability to model this critical process in response to regional and global environmental change.



tree branch on rock



Principal Investigator(s):

Steven Perakis (USGS Corvallis Research Group, FRESC)

Duncan Menge (Columbia University)

Christopher Clark (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Sasha C Reed (USGS Canyonlands Field Station, SBSC)

Cory Cleveland (Univeristy of Montana)



Participants:

Steven Perakis (USGS)

Sasha Reed (USGS)

Carla Roberta Goncalves Reis (Oregon State University)

Cory Cleveland (University of Montana)

Duncan Menge (Columbia University)

Tim Crews (The Land Institute)

Michael Gundale (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)

Nina Wurzburger (University of Georgia)

Anika Staccone (Columbia University)

Sarah Batterman (University of Leeds & Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies)

Fiona Soper (McGill University)

Maria Gabriela Gei Alvarado (Independent)

Katherine (Katy) Dynarski (University of California, Davis)

Benton (Ben) Taylor (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center)

Mark B Peoples (CSIRO)

Verity G. Salmon (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Sarah Jovan (USFS)

Christopher Clark (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)