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John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis

Powell Center Working Group Project Information
Novel multiā€scale synthesis of nitrogen fixation rates and drivers across the terrestrial biosphere

Principal Investigator(s):
Steven Perakis (USGS Corvallis Research Group, FRESC)
Duncan Menge (Columbia University)
Christopher Clark (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Sasha C Reed (Canyonlands Field Station, SBSC)

Award Date: 2019 
Title: Nitrogen Fixation - landscapeTitle: Nitrogen Fixation - nodules

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is a critical biogeochemical process that converts inert atmospheric N2 gas into biologically usable forms of the essential nutrient nitrogen. A variety of free-living and symbiotic organisms carry out BNF, and in most regions worldwide, BNF is the largest source of nitrogen that fuels terrestrial ecosystems. As a result, BNF has far reaching effects on ecosystem properties (water quality, carbon storage), sustainability (plant growth, soil fertility), and the global climate system. Despite this cross-cutting importance, existing syntheses of BNF have major gaps, with particular challenges in upscaling local measurements across large areas.  These gaps, and a corresponding lack of information on environmental controls of BNF among taxa and across scales, create significant uncertainty in ongoing assessments and in model projections of baseline patterns and human-alteration of biogeochemical cycles on Earth.

This Powell Center project will: (1) synthesize rates of BNF for organisms in the major ecological niches (trees, shrubs, herbs, lichens, cyanobacteria, mosses, liverworts, and free-living heterotrophic bacteria) across all terrestrial biomes globally, including agricultural systems; (2) use novel approaches to upscale symbiotic BNF from plants and lichens, to produce spatially-resolved maps for the U.S. and North America; and (3) develop prognostic tools for evaluating environmental controls of BNF in different ecological niches across terrestrial biomes for mapping, management, and modeling. This information will serve as a benchmark for understanding patterns and controls of terrestrial BNF, and will greatly improve our ability to model this critical process in response to regional and global environmental change.

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