Recalcitrant dissolved organic carbon fractions

Ann Rev Mar Sci. 2013;5:421-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100757. Epub 2012 Jul 16.


Marine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) exhibits a spectrum of reactivity, from very fast turnover of the most bioavailable forms in the surface ocean to long-lived materials circulating within the ocean abyss. These disparate reactivities group DOC by fractions with distinctive functions in the cycling of carbon, ranging from support of the microbial loop to involvement in the biological pump to a hypothesized major source/sink of atmospheric CO(2) driving paleoclimate variability. Here, the major fractions constituting the global ocean's recalcitrant DOC pool are quantitatively and qualitatively characterized with reference to their roles in carbon biogeochemistry. A nomenclature for the fractions is proposed based on those roles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / chemistry*
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oceans and Seas*
  • Seawater / chemistry*


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon