Global database of ratios of particulate organic carbon to thorium-234 in the ocean: improving estimates of the biological carbon pump

Viena Puigcorbé*, Pere Masqué, Frédéric A.C. Le Moigne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The ocean's biological carbon pump (BCP) plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. A fraction of the photosynthetically fixed organic carbon produced in surface waters is exported below the sunlit layer as settling particles (e.g., marine snow). Since the seminal works on the BCP, global estimates of the global strength of the BCP have improved but large uncertainties remain (from 5 to 20Gt C yr-1 exported below the euphotic zone or mixed-layer depth). The 234Th technique is widely used to measure the downward export of particulate organic carbon (POC). This technique has the advantage of allowing a downward flux to be determined by integrating the deficit of 234Th in the upper water column and coupling it to the POCg234Th ratio in sinking particles. However, the factors controlling the regional, temporal, and depth variations of POCg234Th ratios are poorly understood. We present a database of 9318 measurements of the POCg234Th ratio in the ocean, from the surface down to >5500m, sampled on three size fractions (&tild;>0.7 μm, &tild; 1-50 μm, &tild;> 50μm), collected with in situ pumps and bottles, and also from bulk particles collected with sediment traps. The dataset is archived in the data repository PANGAEA® under (Puigcorbé, 2019). The samples presented in this dataset were collected between 1989 and 2018, and the data have been obtained from published papers and open datasets available online. Unpublished data have also been included. Multiple measurements can be found in most of the open ocean provinces. However, there is an uneven distribution of the data, with some areas highly sampled (e.g., China Sea, Bermuda Atlantic Time Series station) compared to some others that are not well represented, such as the southeastern Atlantic, the south Pacific, and the south Indian oceans. Some coastal areas, although in a much smaller number, are also included in this global compilation. Globally, based on different depth horizons and climate zones, the median 234Th ratios have a wide range, from 0.6 to 18μmol dpm-1

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267-1285
Number of pages19
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2020


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