Containing as much carbon as the atmosphere, marine dissolved organic matter is one of Earth's major carbon reservoirs. With invigoration of scientific inquiries into the global carbon cycle, our ignorance of its role in ocean biogeochemistry became untenable. Rapid mobilization of relevant research two decades ago required the community to overcome early false leads, but subsequent progress in examining the global dynamics of this material has been steady. Continuous improvements in analytical skill coupled with global ocean hydrographic survey opportunities resulted in the generation of thousands of measurements throughout the major ocean basins. Here, observations and model results provide new insights into the large-scale variability of dissolved organic carbon, its contribution to the biological pump, and its deep ocean sinks.
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