AbstractThe color of natural waters – oceanic, coastal, and inland – is determined by the spectral absorption and scattering properties of dissolved and particulate water constituents. Remote sensing of aquatic ecosystems requires a comprehensive understanding of these inherent optical properties (IOPs), their interdependencies, and their impact on ocean (water) color, i.e., remote-sensing reflectance. We introduce a bio-geo-optical model for natural waters that includes revised spectral absorption and scattering parameterizations, based on a comprehensive analysis of precisely measured IOPs and water constituents. In addition, specific IOPs of the most significant phytoplankton groups are modeled and a system is proposed to represent the optical variability of phytoplankton diversity and community structures. The model provides a more accurate representation of the relationship between bio-geo-optical properties and can better capture optical variability across different water types. Based on the evaluation both using the training and independent testing data, our model demonstrates an accuracy of within ±5% for most component IOPs throughout the visible spectrum. We also discuss the potential of this model for radiative transfer simulations and building a comprehensive synthetic dataset especially for optically complex waters. Such datasets are the crucial basis for the development of satellite-based ocean (water) color algorithms and atmospheric correction methods. Our model reduces uncertainties in ocean color remote sensing by enhancing the distinction of optically active water constituents and provides a valuable tool for predicting the optical properties of natural waters across different water types.