Popular scientific article in Aktuel Naturvidenskab: Why does organic carbon persist in the oceans?

Monday 30 Nov 15


Colin Stedmon
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 10


Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen
Associate Professor
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 30 60

Massive amounts of organic carbon are floating around in the oceans. The carbon can persist for thousands of years, most likely because it is so dilute that the bacteria do not gain anything from taking it up. 

The oceans contain enormous amounts of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) originating from all life’s processes. Interestingly, a large fraction of the organic carbon remains in the ocean interior for thousands of years only slowly being removed. Looking closer at DOC, it is clear that it consists of a vast diversity of different compounds and chemical bonds. But even compounds considered recalcitrant – think oil spills – can be degraded by bacteria with specialized enzymes. A large part of the explanation is likely due to dilution and at which concentration each individual compound or chemical bond persists at. To assess this, researchers from our VKR Centre for Ocean Life have investigated this in a mathematical model looking at how bacteria best utilize enzymes in order to maximize their gains in this thin soup of DOC.

Click here to see the article (in Danish), published in Aktuel Naturvidenskab 5, November 2015.

Original article:

Traving, S.J., Thygesen, U.H., Riemann, L. & Stedmon, C.A. (2015). A model of extracellular enzymes in free-living microbes: which strategy pays off? Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

21 FEBRUARY 2020