Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are omnipresent in the ocean, originating from both biological (e.g., unbalanced metabolism or stress) and non-biological processes (e.g. photooxidation of colored dissolved organic matter). ROS can directly affect the growth of marine organisms, and can also influence marine biogeochemistry, thus indirectly impacting the availability of nutrients and food sources. Microbial communities and evolution are shaped by marine ROS, and in turn microorganisms influence steady-state ROS concentrations by acting as the predominant sink for marine ROS. Through their interactions with trace metals and organic matter, ROS can enhance microbial growth, but ROS can also attack biological macromolecules, causing extensive modifications with deleterious results. Several biogeochemically important taxa are vulnerable to very low ROS concentrations within the ranges measured in situ, including the globally distributed marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus and ammonia-oxidizing archaea of the phylum Thaumarchaeota. Finally, climate change may increase the amount of ROS in the ocean, especially in the most productive surface layers. In this review, we explore the sources of ROS and their roles in the oceans, how the dynamics of ROS might change in the future, and how this change might impact the ecology and chemistry of the future ocean.

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