About this Research Topic
Phosphorus (chemical symbol P) is the eleventh-most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust and is an essential ingredient in every known recipe for life. This ‘elemental element’ plays a central role in metabolism and is a building block for cells. The persistent biological demand for P in the marine environment is contrary to the highly particle-reactive nature of P and relatively simple biochemistry of P-containing compounds. In the vast oceans of planet Earth, the primary source of P is via riverine transport of the byproducts of rock weathering. Following this source term, the marine phosphorus (P) cycle is characterized by a microbially mediated cycling of P between intracellular, inorganic and organic reservoirs. In recent years, our knowledge of oceanic P transformations has undergone a revolution of sorts, with a growing body of work revealing the molecular composition of dissolved organic phosphorus, novel pathways for the uptake and decomposition of reduced P, new insights into intracellular P composition, significant advances in P detection and analysis, the presence of a microbially mediated P redox cycle in nature and evidence for P control of primary production in select marine habitats. Each of these research findings reiterate the crucial role of microorganisms as mediators of P cycling and emphasize the need to address elemental coupling (carbon-nitrogen-P-x) by biology. We present here a collection of articles detailing new insights into the genomic, biochemical or ecosystem dynamics of marine phosphorus cycling in the surface ocean and the underlying sediments.
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