Welcome to OCB

OCB was established in 2006 as one of the major activities of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program. The scientific mission of OCB is to study the evolving role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle, in the face of environmental variability and change through studies of marine biogeochemical cycles and associated ecosystems. Download an informational brochure about OCB.

Overarching Themes

Improve understanding and prediction of:

  1. oceanic uptake and release of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases;
  2. environmental sensitivities of biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystems, and interactions between the two   

Currently Identified Research Priorities

  • Climate- and human-driven changes in ocean chemistry (e.g., acidification, expanding low-oxygen conditions, nutrient loading, etc.) and associated impacts on biogeochemical cycles and marine ecosystems 
  • Ocean carbon uptake and storage
  • Estuarine and coastal carbon fluxes and processes, including exchanges with open ocean, terrestrial, and atmospheric reservoirs
  • Water column and seafloor biological and biogeochemical processes and associated effects on carbon export and the biological pump
  • Molecular-level responses of marine organisms to their changing environment  
  • Impacts of evolutionary changes on community structure, function and biogeochemical cycling in the face of global change

Science Features

Submit your science features to the OCB Project Office.


Evidence of Millennial-Scale Changes in Plankton Community Composition in North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Two recent studies published by Sherwood et al. (2014) in Nature and McMahon et al. (2015) in Science present evidence of millennial-scale changes in plankton community composition and biogeochemical cycling in the world’s largest contiguous ecosystem, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Molecular-level isotopic records preserved in deep-sea proteinaceous corals show increasing dominance of diazotrophic prokaryotes in the plankton community resulting in a greater proportion of export production originating from nitrogen fixation. By circumventing nitrate limitation in more stratified ocean waters, this new regime may provide a negative feedback to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Figure modified from McMahon et al. (2015). 


A Decade of Insights from GO-SHIP on Dissolved Organic Carbon in the Ocean

A recent study by Talley et al. (2016) published in the Annual Review of Marine Science documents key insights gained from the past decade of repeat hydrographic physical and biogeochemical measurements through the Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program (GO-SHIP). One of the key advancements of the past decade that is described in this report is that dissolved organic carbon (DOC), a large, bioactive reservoir, has been mapped and inventoried for the first time, and its contribution to export production (~20%) and deep-ocean oxygen utilization have been quantified. Figure from Talley et al. (2016), modified from Hansell et al. (2009).



OCB receives support from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


nsf nasa


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