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.

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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.

Subtropical gyre productivity sustained by lateral nutrient transport

Figure from Letscher et al. (2016).

Vertical processes are thought to dominate nutrient resupply across the ocean, however estimated vertical fluxes are insufficient to sustain observed net productivity in the thermally stratified subtropical gyres. A recent study by Letscher et al. (2016) published in Nature Geoscience used a global biogeochemical ocean model to quantify the importance of lateral transport and biological uptake of inorganic and organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus to the euphotic zone over the low-latitude ocean. Lateral nutrient transport is a major contributor to subtropical nutrient budgets, supplying a third of the nitrogen and up to two-thirds of the phosphorus needed to sustain gyre productivity. Half of the annual lateral nutrient flux occurs during the stratified summer and fall months, helping to explain seasonal patterns of net community production at the time-series sites near Bermuda and Hawaii.


Exploring sources of uncertainty in ocean carbon uptake projections

Figure from Lovenduski et al. (2016).

Having absorbed ~30% of the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by human activities, the oceans play an important role in mitigating warming and other climate-related impacts of rising carbon dioxide levels. Predictions of future climate change thus require more accurate projections of ocean carbon uptake. Using two different model suites, a recent study by Lovenduski et al. (2016) published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles documents the relative contributions of internal climate variability, emissions scenario, and model structure to overall uncertainty in ocean carbon uptake predictions on both regional and global scales.



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


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