A mathematic approach to nitrogen fixation through earth history

Alfonso Delgado-Bonal, F. Javier Martín-Torres

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Nitrogen is essential for life as we know it. According to phylogenetic studies, all organisms capable of fixing nitrogen are prokaryotes, both bacteria and archaea, suggesting that nitrogen fixation and ammonium assimilation were metabolic features of the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all organisms. At present time the amount of biologically fixed nitrogen is around 2 × 1013g/year (Falkowski 1997), an amount much larger than the corresponding to the nitrogen fixed abiotically (between 2. 6 ×109 and 3 × 1011 g/year) (Navarro-González et al. 2001). The current amount of nitrogen fixed is much higher than it was on Earth before the Cambrian explosion, where the symbiotic associations with leguminous plants, the major nitrogen fixer currently, did not exist and nitrogen was fixed only by free-living organisms as cyanobacteria. It has been suggested (Navarro-González et al. 2001) that abiotic sources of nitrogen fixation during Early Earth times could have an important role triggering a selection pressure favoring the evolution of nitrogenase and an increase in the nitrogen fixation rate. In this study we present briefly a method to analyze the amount of fixed nitrogen, both biotic and abiotic, through Earth’s history.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAstrophysics and Space Science Proceedings
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAstrophysics and Space Science Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1570-6591
ISSN (Electronic)1570-6605

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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