Two types of diazotrophic microbial communities were found in the littoral zone of alkaline hypersaline Mono Lake, California. One consisted of anaerobic bacteria inhabiting the flocculent surface layers of sediments. Nitrogen fixation (acetylene reduction) by flocculent surface layers occurred under anaerobic conditions, was not stimulated by light or by additions of organic substrates, and was inhibited by O2, nitrate, and ammonia. The second community consisted of a ball-shaped association of a filamentous chlorophyte (Ctenocladus circinnatus) with diazotrophic, nonheterocystous cyanobacteria, as well as anaerobic bacteria (Ctenocladus balls). Nitrogen fixation by Ctenocladus balls was usually, but not always, stimulated by light. Rates of anaerobic dark fixation equaled those in the light under air. Fixation in the light was stimulated by 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea and by propanil [N-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)propanamide]. 3-(3,4-Dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethyl urea-elicited nitrogenase activity was inhibited by ammonia (96%) and nitrate (65%). Fixation was greatest when Ctenocladus balls were incubated anaerobically in the light with sulfide. Dark anaerobic fixation was not stimulated by organic substrates in short-term (4-h) incubations, but was in long-term (67-h) ones. Areal estimates of benthic N2 fixation were measured seasonally, using chambers. Highest rates (~29.3 ??mol of C2H4 m-2 h-1) occurred under normal diel regimens of light and dark. These estimates indicate that benthic N2 fixation has the potential to be a significant nitrogen source in Mono Lake.