The microbial carbon pump and climate change

Nianzhi Jiao, Tingwei Luo, Quanrui Chen, Zhao Zhao, Xilin Xiao, Jihua Liu, Zhimin Jian, Shucheng Xie, Helmuth Thomas, Gerhard J. Herndl, Ronald Benner, Micheal Gonsior, Feng Chen, Wei-Jun Cai, Carol Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The ocean has been a regulator of climate change throughout the history of Earth. One key mechanism is the mediation of the carbon reservoir by refractory dissolved organic carbon (RDOC), which can either be stored in the water column for centuries or released back into the atmosphere as CO2 depending on the conditions. The RDOC is produced through a myriad of microbial metabolic and ecological processes known as the microbial carbon pump (MCP). Here, we review recent research advances in processes related to the MCP, including the distribution patterns and molecular composition of RDOC, links between the complexity of RDOC compounds and microbial diversity, MCP-driven carbon cycles across time and space, and responses of the MCP to a changing climate. We identify knowledge gaps and future research directions in the role of the MCP, particularly as a key component in integrated approaches combining the mechanisms of the biological and abiotic carbon pumps for ocean negative carbon emissions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Early online date15 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Mar 2024

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