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The Living Ocean

The Earth’s oceans are shaped by the organisms that live in them as well as the interactions between these organisms and their broader environment. These interactions are increasingly influenced by human activities, although efforts are underway to mitigate these impacts. This collection looks at biological processes in the oceans, the interplay between geochemistry and biology, how the marine environment has evolved through time, and what the future holds for our living oceans.


Maintaining momentum is crucial as nations build a treaty to safeguard the high seas, argue Glen Wright, Julien Rochette, Kristina M. Gjerde and Lisa A. Levin.

Comment | | Nature

The exploration of ocean worlds in the outer Solar System offers the opportunity to search for an independent origin of life, and also to advance our capabilities for exploring and understanding life in Earth’s oceans.

Comment | | Nature Geoscience

Ocean uptake of CO2 slows the rate of anthropogenic climate change but comes at the cost of ocean acidification. Observations now show that the seasonal cycle of CO2 in the ocean also changes, leading to earlier occurrence of detrimental conditions for ocean biota.

News & Views | | Nature Climate Change

As the United Nations prepares a historic treaty to protect the oceans, scientists highlight what’s needed for success.

News Feature | | Nature


This Review Article discusses the role of bacteriophages in the marine environment, including interactions with their bacterial hosts and their impact on biogeochemical cycling, and a hypothesis to explain successional host–phage dynamics in marine systems.

Review Article | | Nature Microbiology

Metal dissolution from atmospheric aerosol deposition plays an important role in enhancing and inhibiting phytoplankton growth and community structure. Here, the authors review the impacts of trace metal leaching from natural and anthropogenic aerosols on marine microorganisms over short and long timescales.

Review Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications


Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing the acidity of the oceans and reducing carbonate-ion concentrations, making it difficult for corals to maintain their calcium carbonate skeletons. This paper reports a roughly 40 per cent reduction in the transport of carbonate ions to the deep North Atlantic ocean since preindustrial times, with implications for cold-water coral habitats. The authors suggest that a further doubling of the concentration of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could reduce the transport of carbonate ions to corals below 1,000 metres to a quarter of its preindustrial levels, potentially posing a severe threat to these habitats.

Letter | | Nature

The effects of biological similarity on geochemical signals recorded in planktonic foraminiferal tests used in paleo-reconstructions remains unclear. Here, the authors embed species-specific vital effect offsets in evolutionary models and show how shared evolutionary history shapes δ13C, but not δ18O values.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications


The ocean is a key part of the climate system but is often neglected in individual country priorities. Analysis of Nationally Determined Contributions reveals 70% include marine issues. The level of inclusion varies dependent on country factors including vulnerability to rising seas.

Article | | Nature Climate Change

Protists are an important part of the marine food web. In this Review, Caronet al. summarize recent insights from transcriptomic studies of cultured and free-living protists and discuss how these findings highlight the functions and interactions of these single-celled eukaryotes in the global oceans.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Microbiology

Tourism is a significant contributor to the global economy, with potentially large environmental impacts. Origin and destination accounting perspectives are used to provide a comprehensive assessment of global tourism’s carbon footprint.

Article | | Nature Climate Change

Much of the methane produced by the deep subseafloor biosphere is consumed by anaerobic methane oxidation with sulfate in continental shelf sediments, according to a global map and calculated budgets of methane fluxes and degradation.

Article | | Nature Geoscience