Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The geobiological nitrogen cycle: from microbes to the mantle

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Abstract

Nitrogen forms an integral part of the main building blocks of life, including DNA, RNA, and proteins. N2 is the dominant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, and nitrogen is stored in all of Earth’s geological reservoirs, including the crust, the mantle, and the core. As such, nitrogen geochemistry is fundamental to the evolution of planet Earth and the life it supports. Despite the importance of nitrogen in the Earth system, large gaps remain in our knowledge of how the surface and deep nitrogen cycles have evolved over geologic time. Here we discuss the current understanding (or lack thereof) for how the unique interaction of biological innovation, geodynamics, and mantle petrology has acted to regulate Earth’s nitrogen cycle over geologic timescales. In particular, we explore how temporal variations in the external (biosphere and atmosphere) and internal (crust and mantle) nitrogen cycles could have regulated atmospheric pN2. We consider three potential scenarios for the evolution of the geobiological nitrogen cycle over Earth’s history: two in which atmospheric pN2 has changed unidirectionally (increased or decreased) over geologic time; and one in which pN2 could have taken a dramatic deflection following the Great Oxidation Event. It is impossible to discriminate between these scenarios with the currently available models and datasets. However, we are optimistic that this problem can be solved, following a sustained, open-minded, and multidisciplinary effort between surface and deep Earth communities.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-352
Number of pages10
JournalGeobiology
Volume15
Issue number13
Early online date3 Feb 2017
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2017

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

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Origin and evolution of the atmospheres of early Venus, Earth and Mars

    Lammer, H., Zerkle, A. L., Gebauer, S., Tosi, N., Noack, L., Scherf, M., Pilat-Lohinger, E., Güdel, M., Grenfell, J. L., Godolt, M. & Nikolaou, A. 10 May 2018 In : Astronomy and Astrophysics Review. 26, 2

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

  2. Two-billion-year-old evaporites capture Earth's great oxidation

    Blättler, C., Claire, M., Prave, A. R., Zerkle, A. L. & Warke, M. R. 22 Mar 2018 In : Science. eaar2687

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. High-frequency fluctuations in redox conditions during the latest Permian mass extinction

    Mettam, C., Zerkle, A. L., Claire, M. W., Izon, G., Junium, C. J. & Twitchett, R. J. 1 Nov 2017 In : Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 485, p. 210-223

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. The relationship between mantle pH and the deep nitrogen cycle

    Mikhail, S., Barry, P. H. & Sverjensky, D. A. 15 Jul 2017 In : Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 209, p. 149-160 12 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Related by journal

  1. Tracking the rise of eukaryotes to ecological dominance with zinc isotopes

    Isson, T., Love, G., Dupont, C., Reinhard, C., Zumberge, A., Asael, D., Gueguen, B., McCrow, J., Gill, B., Owens, J., Rainbird, R., Rooney, A., Zhao, M-Y., Stueeken, E. E., Konhauser, K., John, S., Lyons, T. & Planavsky, N. 5 Jun 2018 In : Geobiology. Early View

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Biogeochemical probing of microbial communities in a basalt-hosted hot spring at Kverkfjöll volcano, Iceland

    Cousins, C. R., Fogel, M., Bowden, R., Crawford, I., Boyce, A., Cockell, C. & Gunn, M. 1 Jun 2018 In : Geobiology. Early View

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Environmental niches and metabolic diversity in Neoarchean lakes

    Stueeken, E. E., Buick, R., Anderson, R. E., Baross, J. A., Planavsky, N. J. & Lyons, T. W. Nov 2017 In : Geobiology. 15, 6, p. 767-783

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. Sulphur cycling in a Neoarchean microbial mat

    Meyer, N. R., Zerkle, A. L. & Fike, D. A. May 2017 In : Geobiology. 15, 13, p. 353-365 13 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

ID: 248664758