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dc.contributor.authorBarth, Patrick
dc.contributor.authorStueeken, Eva Elisabeth
dc.contributor.authorHelling, Christiane
dc.contributor.authorRossmanith, Lukas
dc.contributor.authorPeng, Yuqian
dc.contributor.authorWalters, Wendell
dc.contributor.authorClaire, Mark
dc.identifier.citationBarth , P , Stueeken , E E , Helling , C , Rossmanith , L , Peng , Y , Walters , W & Claire , M 2023 , ' Isotopic constraints on lightning as a source of fixed nitrogen in Earth’s early biosphere ' , Nature Geoscience , vol. 16 , pp. 478-484 .
dc.identifier.otherORCID: /0000-0002-5418-0882/work/135851188
dc.identifier.otherORCID: /0000-0001-6861-2490/work/135851286
dc.descriptionFunding: P.B. acknowledges a St Leonard’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Scholarship from the University of St Andrews. E.E.S. acknowledges funding from a Royal Society research grant (RGS\R1\211184) and from a NERC Frontiers grant (NE/V010824/1). Ch.H. is part of the CHAMELEON MC ITN EJD which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement number 860470.en
dc.description.abstractBioavailable nitrogen is thought to be a requirement for the origin and sustenance of life. Before the onset of biological nitrogen fixation, abiotic pathways to fix atmospheric N2 must have been prominent to provide bioavailable nitrogen to Earth’s earliest ecosystems. Lightning has been shown to produce fixed nitrogen as nitrite and nitrate in both modern atmospheres dominated by N2 and O2 and atmospheres dominated by N2 and CO2 analogous to the Archaean Earth. However, a better understanding of the isotopic fingerprints of lightning-generated fixed nitrogen is needed to assess the role of this process on early Earth. Here we present results from spark discharge experiments in N2−CO2 and N2−O2 gas mixtures. Our experiments suggest that lightning-driven nitrogen fixation may have been similarly efficient in the Archaean atmosphere, compared with modern times. Measurements of the isotopic ratio (δ15N) of the discharge-produced nitrite and nitrate in solution show very low values of −6‰ to −15‰ after equilibration with the gas phase with a calculated endmember composition of −17‰. These results are much lower than most δ15N values documented from the sedimentary rock record, which supports the development of biological nitrogen fixation earlier than 3.2 billion years ago. However, some Paleoarchean records (3.7 billion years ago) may be consistent with lightning-derived nitrogen input, highlighting the potential role of this process for the earliest ecosystems.
dc.relation.ispartofNature Geoscienceen
dc.subjectEarly Earthen
dc.subjectNitrogen isotopesen
dc.subjectOrigin of lifeen
dc.subjectQD Chemistryen
dc.subjectQE Geologyen
dc.subjectQH301 Biologyen
dc.titleIsotopic constraints on lightning as a source of fixed nitrogen in Earth’s early biosphereen
dc.typeJournal articleen
dc.contributor.sponsorThe Royal Societyen
dc.contributor.sponsorEuropean Commissionen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews. School of Physics and Astronomyen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews. School of Earth & Environmental Sciencesen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews. St Andrews Centre for Exoplanet Scienceen
dc.description.statusPeer revieweden

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