About half of atmospheric carbon dioxide is fixed by ocean's phytoplankton, mainly picocyanobacteria, through a process called photosynthesis. Picocyanobacteria are tiny, unicellular microorganisms that are abundant and widely distributed in freshwater and marine environments. A large portion of biologically fixed carbon is formed by picocyanobacteria at the sea surface and then transported to the deep ocean.
What remains a mystery is how colored dissolved organic matter which originates from plant detritus (either on land or at sea) makes it into the deep ocean. A team of scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and around the world potentially found a viable marine source of this colored material.