News Source:
April 11, 2014

A decades-long debate over how nitrogen is removed from the ocean may now be settled by new findings from researchers at Princeton University and their collaborators at the University of Washington.

The debate centers on how nitrogen—one of the most important food sources for ocean life and a controller of atmospheric carbon dioxide—becomes converted to a form that can exit the ocean and return to the atmosphere where it is reused in the global nitrogen cycle.

Researchers have argued over which of two nitrogen-removal mechanisms, denitrification and anammox, is most important in the oceans. The question is not just a scientific curiosity, but has real world applications because one mechanism contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the other.