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Surface accumulation of the nitrogen-fixing microbe Trichodesmium in the South Pacific Ocean.


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Courtesy of Pia Moisander

More than One: Long-Reining Microbe Controlling Ocean Nitrogen Shares the Throne

Scientists have been taking a close look at microbes that live in the ocean. The microbes they are studying are a type of bacteria and are very tiny. They may be small but they have a big impact on life in the sea!

The little round bacteria are able to take nitrogen gas out of the air and change it into a different type of nitrogen. They change it into a nutritious type of nitrogen that other living things need.

Plants and algae in the ocean need the nutritious nitrogen. These plants and algae are the start of food chains that include almost all life in the sea. Because the bacteria can change nitrogen from the air into a type that plants and algae can use, they are very important for marine ecosystems.

These special bacteria live in certain environments. Some live in warm water while others prefer cool water. Since these bacteria live only in certain places in the ocean, nitrogen moves through the nitrogen cycle differently in different places.

Last modified May 21, 2010 by Lisa Gardiner.

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