Biogeochemical fluxes and fate of diazotroph-derived nitrogen in the food web after a phosphate enrichment: modeling of the VAHINE mesocosms experiment
The VAHINE mesocosm experiment in the oligotrophic waters of the Nouméa lagoon (New Caledonia), where high N 2 fixation rates and abundant diazotroph organisms were observed, aimed to assess the role of the nitrogen input through N 2 fixation in carbon production and export and to study the fate of diazotroph-derived nitrogen (DDN) throughout the planktonic food web. A 1-D vertical biogeochemical mechanistic model was used in addition to the in situ experiment to enrich our understanding of the dynamics of the planktonic ecosystem and the main biogeochemical carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphate (P) fluxes. The mesocosms were intentionally enriched with ∼ 0.8 µmol L −1 of inorganic P to trigger the development of diazotrophs and amplify biogeochemical fluxes. Two simulations were run, one with and the other without the phosphate enrichment. In the P-enriched simulation, N 2 fixation, primary production (PP) and C export increased by 201, 208 and 87 %, respectively, consistent with the trends observed in the mesocosms (+124, +141 and +261 % for N 2 fixation, PP and C export, respectively). In total, 5–10 days were necessary to obtain an increase in primary and export productions after the dissolved inorganic phosphate (DIP) enrichment, thereby suggesting that classical methods (short-term microcosms experiments) used to quantify nutrient limitations of primary production may not be relevant. The model enabled us to monitor the fate of fixed N 2 by providing the proportion of DDN in each compartment (inorganic and organic) of the model over time. At the end of the simulation (25 days), 43 % of the DDN was found in the non-diazotroph organisms, 33 % in diazotrophs, 16 % in the dissolved organic nitrogen pool, 3 % in the particulate detrital organic pool and 5 % in traps, indicating that N 2 fixation was of benefit to non-diazotrophic organisms and contributed to C export.