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 a feedback between ocean warming and deep sea microbial activity

Arrhenius plots of the natural logarithm of the Prokaryotic heterotrophic production (ln PHP) against the inverse absolute temperature (1/T) for the epipelagic (0–200 m), mesopelagic (201–1,000 m) and bathypelagic (1,001–4,000 m) sets of samples. The points represent PHP estimates grouped in 1ºC bins. The inset in each graph shows the raw data for each depth layer.
A recent study by Lønborg et al. (2016) published in Frontiers of Aquatic Microbiology demonstrates that the temperature dependence of prokaryotic production is fundamentally different between the shallower and deeper parts of the ocean, with a predicted increase of 5% in prokaryotic production in the upper ocean (0–200 m) and up to 55% in the deeper ocean (>1000 m) in response to a water temperature increase of 1ºC. Hence, this study indicates that a major and thus far underestimated feedback mechanism exists between deep ocean warming and heterotrophic prokaryotic activity. These findings might have far reaching consequences for the overall carbon balance of the deep ocean in particular and the global ocean in general. Figure modified from Lønborg et al. (2016). 


Intertidal salt marshes a key player in coastal ocean carbon budget

Marsh exports of DIC and alkalinity may have complex implications for a future, more acidified ocean. A recent study by Wang et al. (2016) published in Limnology & Oceanography combines tidal water sampling of CO2 parameters across seasons and continuous in situ measurements of biogeochemically relevant parameters and water fluxes with high-resolution modeling in an intertidal salt marsh of the U.S. northeast region. Marsh DIC export is more than two times previous estimates, and exhibits high variability over tidal and seasonal cycles, which is modulated by both marsh DIC generation and by water fluxes. It is a major term in the marsh carbon budget and translates to one of the largest carbon fluxes along the U.S. East Coast.



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


nsf nasa


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