PerspectiveOcean Science

Photosynthesis in the Open Ocean

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Science  13 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5955, pp. 945-946
DOI: 10.1126/science.1181277

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Global primary productivity (the fixation of carbon dioxide, CO2, into organic matter) fuels food production on land and in the sea. About half of this CO2 fixation occurs in the sea, mainly by a type of phytoplankton called cyanobacteria (1). Recent reports (24) have shown that a key characteristic of oxygenic photosynthesis—the electron flux through photosynthetic reaction centers coupled to oxygen (O2) evolution—is variable, thus uncoupling oxygen cycling from CO2 fixation. This insight has implications for how phytoplankton have adapted to the marine environment and for how we measure the productivity of the oceans.