Seafloor recycling of organic materials in Santa Monica Basin, California was examined through in situ benthic chamber experiments, shipboard whole-core incubations and pore water studies. Mass balance calculations indicate that the data are internally consistent and that the estimated benthic exchange rates compare well with those derived from deep, moored conical sediment traps and hydrographic modeling. Pore water and benthic flux observations indicate that the metabolizable organic matter at the seafloor must be composed of at least two fractions of very different reactivities. While the majority of reactive organic compounds degrade quickly, with a half-life of <6.5 years, ¼ of the total metabolizable organic matter appears to react more slowly, with a half-life on the order of 1700 years. Down-core changes in pore water sulfate and titration alkalinity are not explained by stoichiometric models of organic matter diagenesis and suggest that reactions not considered previously must be influencing the pore water concentrations. Measured recycling and burial rates indicate that 43% of the organic carbon reaching the basin seafloor is permanently buried. The results for Santa Monica Basin are compared to those reported for other California Borderland Basins that differ in sedimentation rate and bottom water oxygen content. Organic carbon burial rates for the Borderland Basins are strongly correlated with total organic carbon deposition rate and bulk sedimentation rate. No significant correlation is observed between carbon burial and bottom water oxygen, extent of oxic mineralization and sediment mixing. Thus, for the California Borderlands, it appears that carbon burial rates are primarily controlled by input rates and not by variations in preservation.