EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Low Dinitrogen Fixation Rates in the Bay of Bengal during Summer Monsoon

Arvind Singh, Himanshu Saxena, Deepika Sahoo, Mohammad Atif Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, and Athiyarath K Sudheer
Arvind Singh et al.
  • Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, Geosciences Division, Ahmedabad, India (

Nitrogen is a staple element for every living organism in addition to carbon, since all the major cellular components (e.g., DNA and RNA), proteins, and energy carrier molecules (e.g., ATP) are stemmed from these elements. Biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation exerts an important control on oceanic primary production by providing bioavailable form of nitrogen (such as NH4+) to photosynthetic microorganisms. We hypothesized that the oligotrophic nature of the Bay of Bengal might create a suitable niche for N2 fixing microorganisms.

In the Bay of Bengal, fresh water influx driven stratification prevent the vertical influx of nutrients to the sunlit layers. Most of the riverine nutrients are used within estuarine and coastal regions, and thus these have negligible contribution on open ocean biological productivity. Atmospheric deposition contribution to the nutrients supply is equally low (< 3%) in the Bay. Thus, the recently observed high new production rates in the Bay of Bengal suggests the higher probability of N2 fixation in this basin than the Arabian Sea. In addition, nitrogen isotopic composition of sedimentary organic matter (low δ15N values) in the Bay of Bengal can also be alluded to the presence of diazotrophy in the Bay. Hence, we further strengthened our hypothesis that N2 fixers play a crucial role for the primary production in the Bay.

We commenced the first N2 fixation study in the sunlit layer of the Bay of Bengal using 15N2 gas tracer incubation experiments on a cruise expedition during summer monsoon 2018. N2 fixation rates varied from 4 to 124 μmol N m-2 d-1 – these rates were very low compared to that observed in the Bay’s western counterpart in the Indian Ocean, i.e., the Arabian Sea. The contribution of N2 fixation to primary production was small (< 1%). Noteworthily, the upper bound of observed N2 fixation rates in our study was still higher than that measured in other oceanic regimes such as Eastern Tropical South Pacific, Tropical Northwest Atlantic, and Equatorial and Southern Indian Ocean. Strong monsoonal winds, turbidity due to copious riverine discharge and cloud cover over the Bay of Bengal might have inhibited N2 fixation. Therefore, a more detailed study covering all the seasons is needed to understand the role of N2 fixation rates on primary productivity in the Bay of Bengal.

How to cite: Singh, A., Saxena, H., Sahoo, D., Khan, M. A., Kumar, S., and Sudheer, A. K.: Low Dinitrogen Fixation Rates in the Bay of Bengal during Summer Monsoon, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-1264,, 2019


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