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Journal Article

Volcano Fixes Nitrogen into Plant-Available Forms

B. Huebert, P. Vitousek, J. Sutton, T. Elias, J. Heath, S. Coeppicus, S. Howell and B. Blomquist
Biogeochemistry
Vol. 47, No. 1 (Oct., 1999), pp. 111-118
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1469370
Page Count: 8

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Topics: Nitrates, Volcanoes, Clouds, Nitrogen, Lava, Lava flows, Marine ecosystems, Sulfates, Plumes, Overland flow
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Volcano Fixes Nitrogen into Plant-Available Forms
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Abstract

Hawaiian montane ecosystems developing on recent tephra deposits contain more fixed nitrogen than conventional sources can explain. Heath and Huebert (1999) demonstrated that cloud water interception is the mechanism by which this extra nitrogen is deposited, but could not identify its source. We show here that atmospheric dinitrogen is fixed at the surface of active lava flows, producing concentrations of NO which are higher than those found in most urban rush hour air pollution. Over a period of hours this NO is blown away from the island and oxidized to nitrate. Interruptions in the trade wind flow can return this nitrate to the island to be deposited in cloud water. Thus, fixation on active lava flows is able to provide nitrogen to developing ecosystems on flows emplaced earlier.

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