A Mathematic Approach to Nitrogen Fixation Through Earth History

  • Alfonso Delgado-Bonal
  • F. Javier Martín-Torres
Conference paper
Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings book series (ASSSP, volume 35)


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 \(2 \times 1{0}^{13}\,\mathrm{g/year}\) (Falkowski 1997), an amount much larger than the corresponding to the nitrogen fixed abiotically (between 2. 6 ×109 and \(3 \times 1{0}^{11}\,\mathrm{g/year}\)) (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.


Nitrogen Cycle Denitrification Rate Growth Constant Biological Fixation Cambrian Explosion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



ADB acknowledges INTA grant TD 04/10 and JMT acknowledges Spanish Government PIE201050I025 and AYA2011-25720 grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfonso Delgado-Bonal
    • 1
  • F. Javier Martín-Torres
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA)Torrejón de ArdozSpain

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