Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Onset of the aerobic nitrogen cycle during the Great Oxidation Event

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Author(s)

Aubrey L. Zerkle, Simon W. Poulton, Robert J. Newton, Colin Mettam, Mark W. Claire, Andrey Bekker, Christopher K. Junium

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The rise of oxygen on the early Earth (about 2.4 billion years ago)1 caused a reorganization of marine nutrient cycles2, 3, including that of nitrogen, which is important for controlling global primary productivity. However, current geochemical records4 lack the temporal resolution to address the nature and timing of the biogeochemical response to oxygenation directly. Here we couple records of ocean redox chemistry with nitrogen isotope (15N/14N) values from approximately 2.31-billion-year-old shales5 of the Rooihoogte and Timeball Hill formations in South Africa, deposited during the early stages of the first rise in atmospheric oxygen on the Earth (the Great Oxidation Event)6. Our data fill a gap of about 400 million years in the temporal 15N/14N record4 and provide evidence for the emergence of a pervasive aerobic marine nitrogen cycle. The interpretation of our nitrogen isotope data in the context of iron speciation and carbon isotope data suggests biogeochemical cycling across a dynamic redox boundary, with primary productivity fuelled by chemoautotrophic production and a nitrogen cycle dominated by nitrogen loss processes using newly available marine oxidants. This chemostratigraphic trend constrains the onset of widespread nitrate availability associated with ocean oxygenation. The rise of marine nitrate could have allowed for the rapid diversification and proliferation of nitrate-using cyanobacteria and, potentially, eukaryotic phytoplankton.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-467
Number of pages10
JournalNature
Volume542
Issue number7642
Early online date6 Feb 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2017

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Spatial variability of microbial communities and salt distributions across a latitudinal aridity gradient in the Atacama Desert

    Shen, J., Wyness, A., Claire, M. & Zerkle, A., 13 Jan 2021, In: Microbial Ecology. First Online, 17 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Unravelling biogeochemical phosphorus dynamics in hyperarid Mars-analogue soils using stable oxygen isotopes in phosphate

    Shen, J., Smith, A., Claire, M. & Zerkle, A. L., Nov 2020, In: Geobiology. 18, 6, p. 760-779 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. The Great Oxidation Event preceded a Paleoproterozoic "snowball Earth"

    Warke, M. R., Di Rocco, T., Zerkle, A. L., Lepland, A., Prave, T., Martin, A., Ueno, Y., Condon, D. & Claire, M., 16 Jun 2020, In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 117, 24, p. 13314-13320 7 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Anaerobic nitrogen cycling on a Neoarchean ocean margin

    Mettam, C. W., Zerkle, A. L., Claire, M., Prave, A. R., Poulton, S. W. & Junium, C. K., 1 Dec 2019, In: Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 527, 115800.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Nitrates as a potential N Supply for microbial ecosystems in a hyperarid Mars analog system

    Shen, J., Zerkle, A. L., Stueeken, E. E. & Claire, M., 19 Oct 2019, In: Life. 9, 4, 20 p., 79.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Giant nonlinear optical responses from photon-avalanching nanoparticles

    Lee, C., Xu, E. Z., Liu, Y., Teitelboim, A., Yao, K., Fernandez-Bravo, A., Kotulska, A. M., Nam, S. H., Suh, Y. D., Bednarkiewicz, A., Cohen, B. E., Chan, E. M. & Schuck, P. J., 14 Jan 2021, In: Nature. 589, 7841, p. 230-235 6 p., 589.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. An anti-CRISPR viral ring nuclease subverts type III CRISPR immunity

    Athukoralage, J. S., McMahon, S., Zhang, C., Gruschow, S., Graham, S., Krupovic, M., Whitaker, R., Gloster, T. & White, M., 23 Jan 2020, In: Nature. 577, 7791, p. 572-575 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Analyses of non-coding somatic drivers in 2,658 cancer whole genomes

    PCAWG Drivers and Functional Interpretation Working Group, PCAWG Structural Variation Working Group & PCAWG Consortium, 6 Feb 2020, In: Nature. 578, 7793, p. 102-111 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Clustered versus catastrophic global vertebrate declines

    Leung, B., Hargreaves, A. L., Greenberg, D. A., McGill, B., Dornelas, M. & Freeman, R., 10 Dec 2020, In: Nature. 588, 7837, p. 267-271 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Nature (Journal)

    Will Cresswell (Reviewer)

    21 Dec 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Nature (Journal)

    Will Cresswell (Reviewer)

    11 Nov 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Nature (Journal)

    David Gerard Dritschel (Editor)

    2005 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  4. Nature (Journal)

    Ifor David William Samuel (Editor)

    2005 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

ID: 248664597

Top