Dissolved organic sulfur in the ocean: Biogeochemistry of a petagram inventory

Science. 2016 Oct 28;354(6311):456-459. doi: 10.1126/science.aaf7796. Epub 2016 Oct 6.


Although sulfur is an essential element for marine primary production and critical for climate processes, little is known about the oceanic pool of nonvolatile dissolved organic sulfur (DOS). We present a basin-scale distribution of solid-phase extractable DOS in the East Atlantic Ocean and the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. Although molar DOS versus dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) ratios of 0.11 ± 0.024 in Atlantic surface water resembled phytoplankton stoichiometry (sulfur/nitrogen ~ 0.08), increasing dissolved organic carbon (DOC) versus DOS ratios and decreasing methionine-S yield demonstrated selective DOS removal and active involvement in marine biogeochemical cycles. Based on stoichiometric estimates, the minimum global inventory of marine DOS is 6.7 petagrams of sulfur, exceeding all other marine organic sulfur reservoirs by an order of magnitude.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Methionine / analysis
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Oceans and Seas*
  • Phytoplankton / chemistry
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Sulfur Compounds / analysis*


  • Sulfur Compounds
  • Methionine
  • Nitrogen