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  1. Abstract

    Biological dinitrogen fixation is the major source of new nitrogen to marine systems and thus essential to the ocean’s biological pump. Constraining the distribution and global rate of dinitrogen fixation has proven challenging owing largely to uncertainty surrounding the controls thereon. Existing South Atlantic dinitrogen fixation rate estimates vary five-fold, with models attributing most dinitrogen fixation to the western basin. From hydrographic properties and nitrate isotope ratios, we show that the Angola Gyre in the eastern tropical South Atlantic supports the fixation of 1.4–5.4 Tg N.a−1, 28-108% of the existing (highly uncertain) estimates for the basin. Our observations contradict model diagnoses, revealing a substantial input of newly-fixed nitrogen to the tropical eastern basin and no dinitrogen fixation west of 7.5˚W. We propose that dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic occurs in hotspots controlled by the overlapping biogeography of excess phosphorus relative to nitrogen and bioavailable iron from margin sediments. Similar conditions may promote dinitrogen fixation in analogous ocean regions. Our analysis suggests that local iron availability causes the phosphorus-driven coupling of oceanic dinitrogen fixation to nitrogen loss to vary on a regional basis.

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  2. Abstract

    The southern Benguela upwelling system (SBUS) supports high rates of primary productivity that sustain important commercial fisheries. The exceptional fertility of this system is reportedly fueled not only by upwelled nutrients but also by nutrients regenerated on the broad and shallow continental shelf. We measured nutrient concentrations and the nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) isotope ratios (δ15N and δ18O) of nitrate along four zonal lines in the SBUS in late summer and early winter to evaluate the extent to which regenerated nutrients augment the upwelled nutrient reservoir originating offshore. During summer upwelling, a decrease in on‐shelf nitrate δ18O revealed that 0–48% of the subsurface nutrients derived from in situ remineralization. The nitrate regenerated on‐shelf in the more quiescent winter (0–63% of total nitrate) extended further offshore along the mid‐shelf. A shoreward increase in subsurface nitrate δ15N and a greater N deficit in on‐shelf bottom waters further indicated N loss to benthic (and at times, watercolumn) denitrification coincident with the on‐shelf remineralization. Our data show that remineralized nutrients get trapped on the SBUS shelf in summer through early winter, enhancing the nutrient pool that can be upwelled to support surface production. We hypothesize that this process is aided by a number of equatorward‐flowing hydrographic fronts that impede the lateral exchange of surface waters. The extent to which nutrients remain trapped on the shelf has implications for the occurrence of hypoxic events in the SBUS.

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