Approaches to quantify the organic carbon accumulation on a global scale generally do not consider the small-scale variability of sedimentary and oceanographic boundary conditions along continental margins. In this study, we present a new approach to regionalize the total organic carbon (TOC) content in surface sediments (o5 cmsediment depth). It is based on a compilation of more than 5500 single measurements from various sources. Global TOC distribution was determined by the application of a combined qualitative and quantitative-geostatistical method. Overall, 33 benthic TOC-based provinces were defined and used to process the global distribution pattern of the TOC content in surface sediments in a 1° x 1° grid resolution. Regional dependencies of data points within each single province are expressed by modeled semi-variograms. Measured and estimated TOC values show good correlation, emphasizing the reasonable applicability of the method. The accumulation of organic carbon in marine surface sediments is a key parameter in the control of mineralization processes and the material exchange between the sediment and the ocean water. Our approach will help to improve global budgets of nutrient and carbon cycles.
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