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Article

Stable Abiotic Production of Ammonia from Nitrate in Komatiite-Hosted Hydrothermal Systems in the Hadean and Archean Oceans

by 1,2,*,†, 1,2,†, 1,2,†, 1, 3,4, 1,2,3,4 and 1,2,3,4
1
Institute for Extra-Cutting-Edge Science and Technology Avant-Garde Research (X-Star), Super-Cutting-Edge Grand and Advanced Research (SUGAR) Program, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan
2
Department of Subsurface Geobiological Analysis and Research (D-SUGAR), JAMSTEC, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan
3
Research and Development (R&D) Center for Submarine Resources, JAMSTEC, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan
4
Project Team for Development of New-Generation Research Protocol for Submarine Resources, JAMSTEC, Yokosuka 237-0061, Japan
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editors: Yasuhito Sekine, Elizabeth B. Rampe, Keisuke Fukushi and Edward J. O’Loughlin
Minerals 2021, 11(3), 321; https://doi.org/10.3390/min11030321
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 6 March 2021 / Accepted: 16 March 2021 / Published: 19 March 2021
Abiotic fixation of atmospheric dinitrogen to ammonia is important in prebiotic chemistry and biological evolution in the Hadean and Archean oceans. Though it is widely accepted that nitrate (NO3) was generated in the early atmospheres, the stable pathways of ammonia production from nitrate deposited in the early oceans remain unknown. This paper reports results of the first experiments simulating high-temperature, high-pressure reactions between nitrate and komatiite to find probable chemical pathways to deliver ammonia to the vent–ocean interface of komatiite-hosted hydrothermal systems and the global ocean on geological timescales. The fluid chemistry and mineralogy of the komatiite–H2O–NO3 system show iron-mediated production of ammonia from nitrate with yields of 10% at 250 °C and 350 °C, 500 bars. The komatiite–H2O–NO3 system also generated H2-rich and alkaline fluids, well-known prerequisites for prebiotic and primordial metabolisms, at lower temperatures than the komatiite–H2O–CO2 system. We estimate the ammonia flux from the komatiite-hosted systems to be 105–1010 mol/y in the early oceans. If the nitrate concentration in the early oceans was greater than 10 μmol/kg, the long-term production of ammonia through thermochemical nitrate reduction for the first billion years might have allowed the subsequent development of an early biosphere in the global surface ocean. Our results imply that komatiite-hosted systems might have impacted not only H2-based chemosynthetic ecosystems at the vent-ocean interface but also photosynthetic ecosystems on the early Earth. View Full-Text
Keywords: Hadean; abiotic nitrogen cycle; habitability; nitrate reduction; serpentinization Hadean; abiotic nitrogen cycle; habitability; nitrate reduction; serpentinization
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MDPI and ACS Style

Nishizawa, M.; Saito, T.; Makabe, A.; Ueda, H.; Saitoh, M.; Shibuya, T.; Takai, K. Stable Abiotic Production of Ammonia from Nitrate in Komatiite-Hosted Hydrothermal Systems in the Hadean and Archean Oceans. Minerals 2021, 11, 321. https://doi.org/10.3390/min11030321

AMA Style

Nishizawa M, Saito T, Makabe A, Ueda H, Saitoh M, Shibuya T, Takai K. Stable Abiotic Production of Ammonia from Nitrate in Komatiite-Hosted Hydrothermal Systems in the Hadean and Archean Oceans. Minerals. 2021; 11(3):321. https://doi.org/10.3390/min11030321

Chicago/Turabian Style

Nishizawa, Manabu, Takuya Saito, Akiko Makabe, Hisahiro Ueda, Masafumi Saitoh, Takazo Shibuya, and Ken Takai. 2021. "Stable Abiotic Production of Ammonia from Nitrate in Komatiite-Hosted Hydrothermal Systems in the Hadean and Archean Oceans" Minerals 11, no. 3: 321. https://doi.org/10.3390/min11030321

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