Particulate Organic Carbon Deconstructed: Molecular and Chemical Composition of Particulate Organic Carbon in the Ocean

Jenan J. Kharbush1, Hilary G. Close2, Benjamin A. S. Van Mooy3, Carol Arnosti4, Rienk H. Smittenberg5, Frédéric A. C. Le Moigne6, Gesine Mollenhauer7,8, Barbara Scholz-Böttcher9, Igor Obreht8, Boris P. Koch7, Kevin W. Becker10, Morten H. Iversen7,8 and Wiebke Mohr11

1Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, United States
3Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States
4Department of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
5Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
6Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (UM 110, MIO), CNRS, IRD, Aix Marseille Université, Marseille, France
7Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
8MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
9Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany
10GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
11Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany


The dynamics of the particulate organic carbon (POC) pool in the ocean are central to the marine carbon cycle. POC is the link between surface primary production, the deep ocean, and sediments. The rate at which POC is degraded in the dark ocean can impact atmospheric CO2 concentration. Therefore, a central focus of marine organic geochemistry studies is to improve our understanding of POC distribution, composition, and cycling. The last few decades have seen improvements in analytical techniques that have greatly expanded what we can measure, both in terms of organic compound structural diversity and isotopic composition, and complementary molecular omics studies. Here we provide a brief overview of the autochthonous, allochthonous, and anthropogenic components comprising POC in the ocean. In addition, we highlight key needs for future research that will enable us to more effectively connect diverse data sources and link the identity and structural diversity of POC to its sources and transformation processes.

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