Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Science Advances






eaax0341 (10 pg.)


Surface ocean phosphate is commonly below the standard analytical detection limits, leading to an incomplete picture of the global variation and biogeochemical role of phosphate. A global compilation of phosphate measured using high-sensitivity methods revealed several previously unrecognized low-phosphate areas and clear regional differences. Both observational climatologies and Earth system models (ESMs) systematically overestimated surface phosphate. Furthermore, ESMs misrepresented the relationships between phosphate, phytoplankton biomass, and primary productivity. Atmospheric iron input and nitrogen fixation are known important controls on surface phosphate, but model simulations showed that differences in the iron-to-macronutrient ratio in the vertical nutrient supply and surface lateral transport are additional drivers of phosphate concentrations. Our study demonstrates the importance of accurately quantifying nutrients for understanding the regulation of ocean ecosystems and biogeochemistry now and under future climate conditions.


Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

Data Availability

Article states: "The compiled DIP data reported in this paper are available at All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors."

Supplementary materials are available online at

Corresponding author: Adam C. Martiny (ORCiD: 0000-0003-2829-4314)

Original Publication Citation

Martiny, A. C., Lomas, M. W., Fu, W. W., Boyd, P. W., Chen, Y. L. L., Cutter, G. A., . . . Moore, J. K. (2019). Biogeochemical controls of surface ocean phosphate. Science Advances, 5(8), eaax0341. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0341


0000-0001-6744-6718 (Cutter)