Photosynthesis, respiration, N(2) fixation and ammonium release were studied directly in Nodularia spumigena during a bloom in the Baltic Sea using a combination of microsensors, stable isotope tracer experiments combined with nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) and fluorometry. Cell-specific net C- and N(2)-fixation rates by N. spumigena were 81.6±6.7 and 11.4±0.9 fmol N per cell per h, respectively. During light, the net C:N fixation ratio was 8.0±0.8. During darkness, carbon fixation was not detectable, but N(2) fixation was 5.4±0.4 fmol N per cell per h. Net photosynthesis varied between 0.34 and 250 nmol O(2) h(-1) in colonies with diameters ranging between 0.13 and 5.0 mm, and it reached the theoretical upper limit set by diffusion of dissolved inorganic carbon to colonies (>1 mm). Dark respiration of the same colonies varied between 0.038 and 87 nmol O(2) h(-1), and it reached the limit set by O(2) diffusion from the surrounding water to colonies (>1 mm). N(2) fixation associated with N. spumigena colonies (>1 mm) comprised on average 18% of the total N(2) fixation in the bulk water. Net NH(4)(+) release in colonies equaled 8-33% of the estimated gross N(2) fixation during photosynthesis. NH(4)(+) concentrations within light-exposed colonies, modeled from measured net NH(4)(+) release rates, were 60-fold higher than that of the bulk. Hence, N. spumigena colonies comprise highly productive microenvironments and an attractive NH(4)(+) microenvironment to be utilized by other (micro)organisms in the Baltic Sea where dissolved inorganic nitrogen is limiting growth.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 10 March 2011; doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.20.