Insights into particle cycling from thorium and particle data. Academic Article uri icon


  • Marine particles are a main vector by which the biological carbon pump in the ocean transfers carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. Marine particles exist in a continuous spectrum of sizes, but they can be functionally grouped into a small, suspended class (which constitutes most of the total particle mass) and a large, sinking class (which contributes most of the particle flux). These two classes are connected by aggregation and disaggregation processes. The interplay of processes that create, aggregate, and destroy marine particles determines the strength and transfer efficiency of the biological pump. Measurements of radiocarbon, barium, and organic biomarkers on suspended and sinking particles have provided qualitative insights into particle dynamics, and measurements of thorium isotopes have provided quantitative estimates of rates. Here, we review what has been learned so far about particle dynamics in the ocean from chemical measurements on suspended and sinking particles. We then discuss future directions for this approach.

publication date

  • 2015